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Rev. S. T. LIVERMORE, A. M. 

^^ Knowledges are as Pyramids, whereof History is iJie Basis.''''— V>hCoii. 


The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co. 



s. T- li"\^e;riv[OR.e, 


This volume, commenced as a Centennial Offering, by appointment of the 
Town Council of Block Island, in June, 1876, is respectfully 


To THE Memory of 

The Early Settlers of the Island; 


Their Departed Posterity, 


The Inhabitants now Living, 



CAAFF I rnnn t^.\/ 


If any object to the title of this book on the ground of 
its containing the fads of history rather than history itself, 
our apology is that history is believed to be in the facts 
here presented, and that it will be better understood by 
those of limited culture than it would be if presented in 
the language of those who would fuse the facts into the 
philosophy of history. These facts have been gathered 
up hastily, and many of them snatched from the verge of 
oblivion, amid pressing duties of another character. They 
are here compiled for the pleasure and benefit of present 
readers, and for the use of some future historian who 
may pass them through his mental crucible, and bring out 
the golden current to the satisfaction of those who make 
the nice distinction between history and the facts of his- 
tory. But in the meantime, let not the mint despise the 
mineral or the miner. 

As for style, the writer has aimed at one point, and 
endeavored to shun another. Though in doing the first 
he has sacrificed the ornate for the naked, this has been 
done with the conviction expressed by Bacon, thus : "This 
nakedness as once that of the body is the companion of 
innocence and simphcity." In doing the second he has 
hoped to shun what the same great philosopher calls '' the 
first distemper of learning, when men study words and 
not matter." Therefore those who read this book simply 
for the ornaments of language will be disappointed. 
Those who look for the waymarks of time on the extraor- 
dinary island here represented will be rewarded accord- 


ing to their own estimate of the facts herein presented. 
Part of these facts may seem trivial to some, while to 
others they may be valuable. There was some wisdom 
in the cock that disregarded the diamonds, but greedily 
picked up the barley corns. Others picked up the jewels. 
Another has well said: "Without a detail of the most 
trifling facts in the early history of New England it will 
be impossible to understand the nature of their present 
religious and political estabhshments." So, future gene- 
rations will need a minute detail of our present condition. 

In so small a work as this, covering a period of more 
than two centuries, nothing can be elaborate. And yet it 
is hoped there may be found here a sufiScient concatena- 
tion of incidents and events to entitle this book to the 
character of a history rather than to that of mere chroni- 
cles. In the biographical sketches the writer has sought 
chiefly the weal of the Islanders, hoping to awaken in them 
a deeper interest in their genealogical records. He has 
also endeavored to give some outlines of the various 
classes of characters — or at least a specimen of each class. 
Perhaps good may thus result from enabling some to see 
themselves as others see them. 

In these sketches are elements of history. Each gene- 
ration, in a measure, transmits itself to posterity, and the 
people of to-day repeat the words, the acts, the feehngs, 
habits, and manners of those who lived centuries ago. 

The writer's sources of information have been obscure, 
remote, and various. A colony so isolated from the main 
land, without printing press, with no mails for one hun- 
dred and seventy years, with a very meager written record 
of its own, has remained more than two centuries without 
a published history, while many very erroneous accounts 
of the Island, written by visitors, have been sent abroad. 
Dependent upon tradition, to a great extent, the Islanders 
have perpetuated legends that have come down to the pres- 


ent grotesque with fiction and superstition. A few of thorn 
are here presented, from only one of which — the Palatine^ 
has it seemed necessary to hft the lion skin. The task of 
gathering isolated fragments here and there upon the 
main land, and of classifying them with others found upon 
the Island, has been laborious and perplexing. Without 
ready access to public libraries, while on the Island, the 
writer has been favored with assistance from others. He 
acknowledges his indebtedness to the courteous Librarian 
of the Massachusetts Historical Society ; to the Boston 
Public Library; to Mr. James Hammond of the Redwood 
Library at Newport ; to Mr. Charles H. Dennison of San 
Francisco ; to Mr. Ambrose N. Rose, Town Clerk of 
Block Island ; to Hon. Nicholas Ball, of the' same place ; 
to the aged Islanders, and to others. 

Errors, doubtless, will be discovered in this work, and 
for them the v/riter offers no apology, but simply asks for 
their discovery and correction, and that while the dross is 
condemned the genuine metal may be accepted at its true 
value. All information of its errors will be thankfully 
received by the author, and while asking no praise, and 
expecting no emoluments for his labor, he hopes to escape 
unmitigated censure from the professional critic for the 
presumption of making this humble offering to the pubhc. 


Bridgewater, Mass., March 22, 1877. 



"When Block Island was first seen by civilized navigators 
is only a matter of conjecture. When it was first inhab- 
ited by Indians will probably ever remain a mystery. 
The first account of it which we find was given in 1524, 
more than three and a half centuries ago. Its shores 
were then cursorily examined by the French navigator, 
Verrazzano, who gave a report of it to Francis I., king of 
France. He described its location as being about fifty 
leagues east from New York harbor, and as about three 
leagues from the main-land, and represented its form as 
similar to a triangle. He says, " It was full of hills, cov- 
ered wath trees, well-peopled, for we saw fires all along 
the coast." Evidently none of his crew landed to gain 
any knowledge of the inhabitants. 

In 1614, ninety years after the French navigator passed 
its shores, the Dutch explorer and trader, Adrian Block, 
having been detained through the winter on Manhattan 
Island by the burning of his vessel and cargo of furs, 
built there a new one — a yacht, which he named the Un- 
rest^ of sixteen tons burthen, and with it explored the 
coasts of Long Island Sound, and from the fact of his 
giving his name to this Island it is more than probable 
that he landed on its shores, and from some particular 
liking gave it his own name. Those who admit this infer- 
ence to be sufficient evidence of his visit here will accord 
to the Unrest the honor of being the first vessel anchored 
within the waters of this Island, as a visitor, and to 


Adrian Block and his crew the distinction of being the 
first civilized men ever known to have come upon its soil. 
In 1636, twenty-two years after Block's discovery, a 
trader from Boston, by the name of John Oldham — accus- 
tomed to traffic with the Indians, came to this Island with 
a small sailing vessel to trade with the Manisseans who 
"came into his boat, and having got a full view of com- 
modities which gave them good content, consulted how 
they might destroy him and his company, to the end they 
might clothe their bloody flesh with his lawful garments." 
Their murder of Captain Oldham thoroughly advertised 
the Island in Boston, and doubtless gave to many in New 
England their first knowledge of its existence. The expe- 
dition which Massachusetts sent to the Island under the 
command of Col. John Endicott to punish the Indians 
here accomplished not only that object, but made a more 
thorough exploration of the Island than ever made before, 
and also established a claim to it by right of conquest. 
It was now considered fully discovered and explored, and 
its large and fertile plantations just disburdened of great 
crops of corn by the Indians, with heavily timbered for- 
ests, and splendid fishing-grounds, made it an inviting 
home for the pioneer settlers of the colonies. 


But few parts of the world, during the same period, 
can boast of more names than Block Island, and were we 
to predict which one of them would remain the longest 
we should say that its first name will be its last one to be 
spoken and written. 

Manisses, was the first one known by the Indians who 
were its occupants when settled by the English. This 
name, according to the best interpretation vre have, had a 
religious as well as a local signification, meaning the 
"Little God," or the "Little God's Island," having refer- 


ence, probably, to its sachem, whom tradition represented 
as subordinate to the great Narragansett sachem on the 
main-land, and distinguishing him thus for his valor. 
Whittier, in his poem entitled "The Palatine," had good 
reason for choosing this euphonic, aboriginal name as the 
most poetic and desirable. 

Claudia^ comes next on the list. This name was given 
by Verrazzano, in 1524, in honor of the mother of King 
Francis I. It did not adhere, however, and after a trial 
of a century, being of no special honor to that worthy 
mother, one more substantial and enduring became its 

^^Adrian^s Eyland,^' soon after 1614, was the name put 
down upon the Dutch maps, and this was the name most 
familiar to those then sailing past its shores on trading- 
expeditions to and from Manhattan. This name had the 
advantage of euphony and historic association with dis- 
tinguished persons and places of antiquity. 

Block Islomd, virtually the same as the one last-men- 
tioned, was destined to be the name in 1876, and how 
long after none can say, by which the place was to be 
known most familiarly to the pubhc. It was made so by 
the early settlers of the colonies, and whether intended or 
not, there was a prophecy in the name that was ominous 
to sailors, for upon its shores a multitude of fair vessels 
have fatally stumbled. 

New Shoreham, in 1672, when the Island received its 
town charter from the Rhode Island Assembly, was made 
an antecedent, or prefix of the name Block Island. In 
that charter, the name of the incorporation is repeatedly 
given as '-New Shoreham, otherwise Block Island." 
Whether the Islanders asked for this lumbersome name 
or not we cannot say. To some, at least, it is now sug- 
gestive of shores and blocks. The inhabitants, as is evi- 
dent from their records, considered the name too heavy, 

I r-^O 



and frequently wrote it simply Shoreham, or ^' Shorwni.'^ 
The long word — "otherwise," to connect the old and new 
names in the charter, they reduced to alias^ and some- 
times wrote it ^'ales." 

The reason for adopting the new name, in 1672, instead 
of being as newspaper correspondents have conjectured, 
is plainly stated in the charter, the authors of which were, 
perhaps, the committee consisting of Roger Williams, 
Thomas Olney, and Joseph Torrey, appointed in 1664 by 
the G-eneral Assembly "to draw up their thoughts to com- 
mit to the farther approbation or correcting, as commis- 
sionating them [Block Islanders] in point of preservation 
of his Majesty's peace there." The section alluded to in 
said charter reads as follows : 

"And furthermore be it enacted, that the said town of 
Block Island, at the request and for the reasons by the 
inhabitants showed, and as sig?is of our unity and likeness 
to many parts of our native country^ the said Block Island 
shall be called New Shoreham, otherwise Block Island." 
The shores of the New World were here associated with 
those of the Old, and the final syllable, ham, signifying a 
house, or farm, or village, had reference to "many parts" 
of England whose names terminate with a ham. There is 
also a New Shoreham in Sussex Co., Eng., on the Adur 
River, three miles from its entrance into the English 

By popular consent the Neio Shoreham part of the name 
is now generally omitted, and Block Island is deemed suf- 
ficient, and thus the first step is taken in going back to 
the name Manisses. In the early part of the 18th century 
the Island was known to some extent in Massachusetts by 
the name of ^^Ministerial Lands^'' from the appropriation 
of a part of it for the support of a minister. 



The first possession of the Island of which we have any 
account was that maintained by the Narragansett Indians. 
How long they had held it before Captain Oldham's trad- 
ing expedition there in 163G, we are not informed. Judg- 
ing, however, from the strength of the Xarragansett tribe, 
they may be supposed to have owned it for centuries. It 
naturally belonged to them, from its location, as it now 
belongs to Rhode Island, lying, as it does, directly south 
of the middle of the southern boundary of said state, and 
twelve miles distant. 

From the Indians it passed into the possession of Mas- 
sachusetts soon after the death of Captain Oldham, in 

1636. It was acquired by the conquest of Colonel Endi- 
cott to punish the natives. Its transfer to that colony 
Yv^as acknowledged by Miantinomo, the great sachem of 
the Narragansetts, to Governor Yane, in 1637, and was 
stated then to be "by right of conquest." This transfer 
and possession were acknowledged by its former posses- 
sors as, in "January, ]638, the Indians of Block Island 
sent three men, with ten fathoms of wampum for part of 
their tribute," to the Massachusetts Colony. 

In 1637, Gov. Winthrop said : "Miantinomo, the Xar- 
ragansett sachem, came to Boston. The governor, deputy, 
and treasurer treated with him, and they parted upon fair 
terms. He acknowledged that all the Pequod country 
and Block Island were ours, and promised that he Vv^ould 
not meddle with them but by our leave." 

In a letter from Roger Williams to Gov. Winthrop in 

1637, the former stated that the sachems of the Narra- 
gansetts had left the Block Island Indians to the gover- 
nor, at the time of Mr. Oldham's death, and "so have 
done since ; " that said sachems had sought the head of 
Audsah, the murderer of Oldham ; that the Block Island 
Indians had obligated themselves to pay to the Governor 


of Massachusetts 100 fathoms of beads annually, and that 
they were wholly said governor's subjects. 

In 1658, the possession of Block Island was transferred 
from said colony to private individuals. The following 
account of this transfer is found in the Eccl. Hist, of 
New England : ''1672, Nov. 3d, Block Island, granted in 
1658, by Massachusetts, to John Endicott, Richard Belling- 
ham, Daniel Dennison, and Wilham Hawthorne, is now 
incorporated by the R. I. Assembly under the name of 
New Shoreham" (Vol. II. 549). That state having 
received this Island from the Indians in consideration of 
the damage they had done in the Oldham affair, had 
acquired a genuine title, and accordingly transferred it to 
these gentlemen. Soon they transferred its possession 
again, an account of which we obtain from a most authen- 
tic source, the old town records of Block Island, entitled, — 


This book contains a copy of the original compact of 
the first settlers of Block Island. This copy was taken 
by the town clerk, in 1695, from the "old book of 
Records," of the existence of which we can gain no infor- 

In 1660, the last transfer of Block Island, as a whole, 
was made by Messrs. Endicott, Bellingham, Dennison, and 
Hawthorne, selling the same to a company of sixteen 
men, most of whom constituted its first settlers. The 
compact, purchase, and settlement were mainly as fol- 
lows : — 


" Memorandum in the year of our Lord 1660 ; as followeth : — 

" Mr. John Alcock, physician in the town of Roxbury, 

in the Colony of Massachusetts, being connected with Mr. 


Thomas Faxun. Peter George, Thomas Terry, Richard 
Ellis, Samuel Bering, Simon Ray, all of Braintree, with 
sundry persons belonging to other towns : 

" Mr. John Alcock acquainting them of an island that 
was to be sold, namely, Block Island, which might make 
a situation for about sixteen families, and also declaring 
the price to be four hundred pounds, and that if they 
would be concerned with him proportionably towards the 
erecting a plantation on Block Island, he the aforesaid 
John Alcock would then proceed in the purchase thereof, 
granting him for his trouble and pains five pounds for a 
sixteenth part, or twenty-five acres of land as an equiva- 
lent, and to be at equal proportion at payment for said 
purchase in manner and form as folio weth : 

" Twenty-five pounds to be paid for every sixteenth part, 
the remainder of the payment for to be paid in country 
pay, such as the country afforded, and accordingly timely 
notice was given unto all those that might think convenient 
for to be concerned with the erecting the concerns afore- 
said for to make their personal appearance at the house of 
Mr. John Alcock, August the seventeenth 1660, then and 
there to confer about the premises above mentioned, and 
accordingly was forthwith attended by those hereunto 
subscribed : 

"Mr. John Alcock, M. D. Simon Ray, 

Thomas Faxon, Fehx Wharton, 

Peter George, Hew Williams, 

Thomas Terry, John Gluffer, 

Richard Ellis. Edward Yorse, 

Samuel Bering, John Rathbone. 

''And according to the forementioned premises forthwith 
agreed with Mr. John Alcock for the paym-ent of said 
Island proportionably as above mentioned, and also a con- 
sultation which way for to proceed concerning the erecting 


a plantation on the -aforesaid Block Island considering 
the remoteness thereof both by land and sea and could 
not be settled without great charge, whereupon some of 
our company began for to decline ; still the remainder 
proceeded in the management thereof as voted all and 
every person that was concerned with land on Block 
Island should bear their equal proportion of all charges 
belonging unto the settlement thereof : 

" Whereupon, for the premising and settlement of Block 
Island it was agreed upon that whose names here sub- 
scribed. Mr. John Alcock, Felix Wharton, Hew Williams, 
Thomas Terry, Samuel Bering, Simon Ray, all of them 
agreeing forthwith for to build a barque for the trans- 
porting of cattle to said Island for the settlement thereof, 
Thomas Terry, Samuel Bering, Simon Ray procuring the 
hull for to be built ; Mr. John Alcock, Felix Wharton, 
Hew Williams for to pro^dde the sails and rigging, and 
so accordingly proceeded in the management thereof. 
Further, for the better and quicker transporting of pas- 
sengers, considering that there was no harbor, Samuel 
Bering, Simon Ray built a shallop upon their own cost 
and charge for the promoting and settling of said Island, 
and by the end of the year 1660 the barque and shallop 
were finished for the same purpose before mentioned, and 
William Rose, first Master of the barque for the employ- 
ment that the barque was built for ; and William Ed- 
wards, and Samuel Staples undertaking to sail the shallop 
around the Cape, and for to meet the passengers at Taun- 
ton there to take them in and sail for Block Island. 

"In the year 1661 the barque set sail from Braintree, in 
the beginning of April, for Block Island. The shallop 
received its passengers at Taunton, namely : 

" Thomas Terry, Bun'can Williamson, 

Samuel Bering, John Rathbone, 


Simon Ray, Edward Yorse, 

Wm. Tosh, Nicholas White, 

Thormut Rose, William Billings, 

Wm. Barker, Trustaram Dodge, 

David Kimball, John Ackurs, 

Wm. Cahoone, [Thomas Faxun had pre- 
ceded with the surveyor.] 

'' Memorandum in the year of our Lord 1661. 
^^ Further Settlement of the Plantation Block Island. 
"Notice was given unto all the proprietors for to assem- 
ble themselves at the house of Felix Wharton, in Boston, 
the first Tuesday in September 1661, there to consult and 
agree upon some able knowing man to survey the Island 
that every purchaser might have his proportion that he or 
they might improve it to the best advantage they could, 
Mr. John Alcock propounding unto the assembly there 
met of a man that he knew for to be an able proved sur- 
veyor, one Mr. [Peter] Noyse of Sudbury, forthwith the 
assembly accepted of Mr. Alcock's proposal, and forth- 
with it was voted that Mr. Noyse, Mr. Faxun, an able 
knowing man, that they should go to Block Island and 
by lot divide unto every man concerned his due propor- 
tion as near as they could ; and so accordingly they did 
proceed in the managing thereof according unto directions 
of the purchasers and proprietors of said Island that took 
it into consideration at the time of this assembly and 
agreed upon that there should a quantity or portion of 
land be laid out for the help and maintainance of a min- 
ister and so continue forever, and accordingly Block 
Island was surveyed and lotted out proportionally unto 
the purchasers by Mr. Noyse and by Mr. Faxun, as doth 
appear by the surveyor's works in the plot and draught 
of said Island measured and bounded unto every pur- 
chaser according to proportion by lot as followeth ; 


'' The JSForth Part of the Island as hy Lot. 

"Mr. Richard Billings, - - First Lot. 

Mr. Samuel Dearing, - - - 2 

Nathaniel Wingley, Tormot Rose, - 3 

Edward Vorse, John Rathbone, - 4 

Thomas Faxon (2 lots), - - 5 & 6 

Richard Ellis, - ... 7 

Felix Wharton, - - - 8 

John Glover, - - - - 9 

Thomas Terry, - - 10 & 11 

James Sands, - - - - 12 

Hew Williams, - - - 13 

John Alcock, - - - - 14 

Minister's Land, - - - 15 

Peter George, - - - - 16 

Simon Ray, - - - - 17 

^^The 'Western Part of the Island as hy lot Divided : 

''Mr. Thomas Faxon, - - - 1 & 2 Lots. 

Nathaniel Wingley, Tormot Rose, - 3 
Thomas Terry, - - - 4 & 5 

Felix Wharton, ... 6 

John Alcock, Physician, - - 7 

P. George and S. Ray, - - 8 & 9 

" South East Part of the Island. 

"John Rathbone and Edward Vorse, - 10 Lot 
Richard Billings, - - - 11 

Richard Ellis, - - - - 12 

Hew Williams the thirteenth, - 13 

John Glover and James Sands, 14 & 15 

Samuel Bering, - - - 16 

" The other small divisions by lot divided unto every 
purchaser by proportion. 


^' The above written on both sides, being a true copy 
extracted out of the old book of records of memorandum 
for the first settling of Block Island, by me, 
November this 29th 1695 

Pr Nath'' Mott 

Town Recorder." 

The above memoranda are here given verbatim, but 
not in all cases lif.eratv,n ; the spelling is almost too antique 
to be intelligible. From the foregoing record it is seen 
that several of the purchasers in the compact were not 
among the very first settlers. It seems, too, that after 
the company of sixteen bought the Island in 1660, they 
built their transporting vessels in the fall and winter of 
1660-1 ; sailed from Braintree ''in the beginning of 
April" 1661, as Braintree then was bounded on the north 
by Neponset River and Massachusetts Bay ; and in Sep- 
tember of 1661 sent forward Messrs. Noyes and Faxun 
to survey and apportion the Island ; and it is probable 
the company did not embark from Taunton before the 
spring of 1662. The proprietors were all notified to meet 
in Boston in September, 1661. There they appointed 
their surveyor, who was needed to apportion the Island 
before the settlers moved there, that each might know 
where to locate. After his appointment, the time neces- 
sary for his journey, and for his complicated task would 
necessarily delay the settling party at their old homes, or 
at Taunton, into the winter of 1661, and hence they prob- 
ably moved in the spring of 1662, and then by their pos- 
session and improvement of the land established the titles 
which have descended to succeeding generations. 

From Taunton it is supposed they sailed down the 
Taunton River, into Narragansett Bay, followed the coast 
down to Point Judith, and thence crossed to Block Island, 
landing at Cow Cove, as then quite a bay was there and 


as it is supposed the first cow ever upon the Island there 
swam ashore, greatly to the amusement of the native 



It is located directly south of the central part of Rhode 
Island, twelve miles from the main-land. It is southwest 
from Newport about thirty miles, and about eighteen 
miles north of east from Montauk, the east end of Long 
Island. According to the Coast Survey, its position is : 
latitude 41° 08' North, longitude, 71° 33' West, and 
it lies so far out in the sea that in summer its sur- 
face is cooled by the most refreshing breezes, and in win- 
ter its hills are swept by fearful gales, and its shores are 
wreathed with the white foam of assaulting billows. It 
is about eight miles long, and three miles wide, longest 
N. W. and S. E. 

" Circled by waters that never freeze, 
Beaten by billows and swept by breeze, 
Lieth the Island of Manisses." 


The httle pilgrim band of settlers came prepared for 
hardships, evidently putting in practice Bacon's maxim 
that, — " In counsel it is good to see dangers, and in exe- 
cution not to see them except they be very great." The 
exception, however, they seem to have disregarded. 
There is reason for believing that on their arrival at the 
Island, after a scrutinizing glance at the features of the 
natives, they looked with unusual surprise upon the singu- 
lar surface that many years before had drawn from the 
passing voyager the remark to his king : ''It was full of 
hills." It is doubtful whether a more uneven surface on 
the earth can be pointed out than that of Block Island. 
The steep sides of a high mountain may be inclined planes 


of an even surface, but here we have neither even hill- 
sides, nor level plains. No person ever saw the surface 
of the ocean more uneven than is the land of Block 
Island, excepting those who witnessed the j&ood in the days 
of Noah. It is necessary to resort to the imagination to 
give an adequate view of this extraordinary unevenness 
which puts this Island among the natural curiosities to the 

Imagine, then, several tidal waves moving in nearly the 
same direction — from west to east, each rising about one 
hundred and fifty feet above the level of the sea, and 
their bases nearly touching each other ; and on the tops, 
sides, and intervals of these, "chop-waves" in every con- 
ceivable shape and position covering completely the tidal 
waves ; and when the reader has done this he has an out- 
line of the view under the observer's eye who stands in a 
good light upon Beacon Hill. 

Another peculiarity of the surface found by the first 
settlers has almost entirely disappeared. When they 
landed on the Island it must have been difficult in some 
places to have stepped amiss of a stone. A glance at the 
walls now standing are evidence enough that before they 
were built the surface of the ground was wellnigh paved 
with small bowlders. It is no exaggeration to say that 
more than three hundred miles of stone-wall now consti- 
tute the fences of Block Island. From this fact one may 
infer how stony the ground was in its natural condition. 
These stones are all so nearly round as to present the 
appearance caused by the action of glaciers or of the 
ocean. While they so frequently disturbed the plow and 
the hoe of the pioneers, few, perhaps, thought of their 
great value in future ages to fence the fields after the 
primitive forests had disappeared. 

A heavy growth of timber clothed much of the surface 
of the Island at the time of its settlement. One would 


hardly think this possible while looking upon its present 
nakedness. But for sixty years after the settlers came 
they had an abundance of timber for building their 
houses and barns, and their fences, and for their fuel. 
In 1689, when our vessels and the French privateers had 
an engagement near the Island, Rev. Samuel Niles, a 
witness on the land, says the artillery echoed loudly from 
the woods. Those acquainted with forests and echoes 
know that the latter come from the former only when the 
trees are large and standing near each other. Oak, hick- 
ory, elm, ash, cedar, and pine were abundant. But as the 
term ''firing," then used for the word "fuel," is still com- 
mon among the islanders, so the notion then that the pro- 
ducts of the soil were more desirable than the timber, still 
continues. So long has the destitution of native timber 
here existed that v\^hen the writer came upon the Island 
in 1874, not an inhabitant knew where, or when the for- 
est trees were standing. Their existence is demonstrable 
from incidental fragments of history. 

As the timber disappeared, the necessity of making 
walls for fences secured the clearing of the fields until 
they became smooth and beautiful, inviting to the plow 
and the mower. The industrious farmers have also filled 
many a slough with the thousands of cart-loads of small 
cobble stones. No ledges meet the eye. None have yet 
been discovered on the Island. There are bowlders, how- 
ever, large enough to be blasted for walls, and to be split 
for the stone-cutter. 

The settlers found perhaps a better soil than they left in 
Massachusetts. The inexhaustible stores of peat in the 
little swamps of the Island are evidence of the fertility 
of the soil which produced those stores composed of 
leaves, bark, nuts, roots, and decayed wood, all of which 
were washed down the little steep hills into the little deep 
valleys at their feet. The northerly part of the Island 


was distinguished for its great crops of Indian corn long 
before the settlers came in 1662. In 1636, Col. Endicott 
found and destroyed there immense stores of corn, and 
the settlers gave to that part the name '' Corn Neck," 
having reference to the great products of that cereaL 
The soil is not, and possibly never has been suitable for 
raising wheat. It has no lime apparently. Its stones are 
granite with hardly an exception. Its basis is sand and 
gravel, with a few spots of valuable clay. The sand is 
impregnated with iron, and in some localities the black 
iron sand predominates. There are acres of it along the 
bathing-beach. Rye, barley, oats, and potatoes have been, 
the principal products of the soil, which everywhere has 
alluvial appearances, is quick, and excellent for producing 
garden vegetables and luxuries, for the culture and enjoy- 
ment of which the Islanders have never attained to mare 
than a negative distinction. 

The distribution of water over the Island not only adds 
to its extraordinary beauty, but also supplies the farms 
with exhaustless pools, ponds, and moisture. It is doubt- 
ful whether another part of the continent has, on so small 
a surface, so many unfailing deposits of water. They are 
spoken of in detail under the subject of Ponds, in this 
volume. Their water is not the most wholesome, for it 
is almost invariably impregnated more or less with peat 
or iron, or both, from both or either of which but few 
springs and wells on the Island are free. Cistern water 
is the better and more common for domestic purposes. 



The most important of the Island's resources may be 
distinguished 8.8 Peat^ Sea-iveed, and Fish. This classifi- 
cation, at first, may cause a smile with some, but not with 
those who for years have been studiously seeking an 
answer to the question, — Wliat has kept Block Island from 
barrenness and depopulation f One hundred and fifty years 
ago the inhabitants looked upon this question with alarm. 
A town meeting was then called for its consideration. 
Wood was the only article then used here for fuel ; but 
that was rapidly diminishing. In the preamble of that 
meeting it was said that there was "great scarcity of tim-* 
ber and fencing stuff and many people hath not enough 
for firing and fencing, and the main land being so far off 
from this place, so that if we do not endeavor to preserve 
our timber and fencing stuff the inhabitants must be forced 
to depart the Island^ Their fences could be made of stone 
and ditches, and the timber for building could be brought 
from the main-land, but to bring to the Island all of its 
fuel was too much, and the sense of the town then was 
that before this would be done the Island would be depop- 
ulated. What, then, prevented this depopulation when 
the ivood of the Island was exhausted ? That little, hum- 
ble word, Peatj furnishes the answer, and for one hundred 
years it kept the growing population comfortable, cooking 
their food and warming their cottages, in which some of 
the hardiest, most active and distinguished persons of the 
country were born and reared. Yes, it was a wise pro- 


vision of Providence that put so many deep pockets into 
the surface of this Island and filled them so full of fuel. 
Without it men would have come here in boats in the 
fishing season, but not to remain with their wives and 
children. Then let poets sing as they may of this kind 
of fuel, of 

"Old wives spinning their webs of tow, 

Or rocking weirdly to and fro 
In and out of the peat's dull glow," 

a glance at the Island to-day is proof enough that 
spinning and rocking were not all they did by those hum- 
ble firesides. Nor has the day yet dawned when their 
descendants can dispense entirely with this kind of fuel. 
To a considerable extent it is still used by the poorer fam- 
ilies, and to some extent in nearly all. Indeed, it is within 
the memory of many of the inhabitants that a ton of 
Franklin coal here was not worth a pound of tobacco, for 
an Islander, in 1846, took that quantity in his boat, where 
it had been thrown from a wreck upon the shore, and 
carried it to Providence and there sold it for a pound of 
said stuff. Peat had been the common fuel, and was ade- 
quate until something better could be substituted. It did 
good service, for without it the Island long since would 
have been nearly, if not quite, ^destitute of families, espe- 
cially in winters, and a few fishing shanties would have 
occupied the shores, instead of the many comfortable 
homesteads and popular hotels now existing . 

There are some interesting facts concerning the fuel of 
Block Island. One of them is, that the inhabitants, in 
1875, had lost the knowledge, to a great extent, of the 
use that their ancestors had made of the native timber. 
After a residence among them of more than a year the 
best information which the writer could obtain from them 
on the subject was only traditional that timber once grew 


upon the Island, corroborated by reference to the peat 
deposits, and that said timber was used by the early set- 
tlers for building purposes. A thorough searching, how- 
ever, of some of the old and almost illegible records has 
brought to light the fact that when the Island was settled, 
heavy forest timber was abundant here, and supplied the 
people with wood for fuel and timber for buildings and 
fences. In an inventory of Robert Guthrig's estate, in 
1692, mention was made of "forty-two acres in the west 
woods, at 20 shillings per acre." 

Rev. Samuel Niles, in his history of the hidian and 
French Wars, says he was on Block Island during a naval 
engagement between the French and English near the 
Island about the year 1690, and that "In this action the 
continued fire was so sharp and violent, that the echo in 
the WOODS made a noise as though the limbs of the trees 

were rent and tore off from their bodies." Such an echo 


could be only in a dense forest of large trees. 

In 1714 the town enacted "That no manner of persons 
whatever cut any timber, trees, or poles on any man's 
land without his leave, and if any person do he shall pay 
the sum of five shillings for every tree or pole so cut." 

In 1721, the venerable Simon Ray, always seeking the 
welfare of his fellow-citizens, secured the following enact- 
ment from the freeholders at a town meeting : 

" Whereas this town of New Shoreham, being settled 
sixty years, by which long continuance of the inhabitants 
__thereof hath occasioned great scarcity of timber and 
fencing stuff, and many people hath not enough for firing 
and fencing, and the main-land being so far off from this 
place, so that if we do not endeavor to preserve our tim- 
ber and fencing stuff the inhabitants must be forced to 
depart the Island : 

"Therefore it is enacted by the freemen of the town 
above said that an upright fence shall not be above four 


feet high from the ground to the top thereof, and if it be 
hedge and ditch, or stone ditch, or stone wall, it shall be 
in the same proportion according to the town viewers, 
and no persons whatsoever shall be constrained to make 
any fence against his neighbors higher than the above 
said, and if any cattle, sheep, or horses break through or 
over such fence they shall be counted unruly, and where 
the trespass is made the damaged person shall have his 
damage, any clause, act, or acts to the contrary notwith- 
standing, in this town above named." 

This act was voted upon by each freeman making a dot 
with a pen under the word ''Pro," or " Con." those under 
''Pro "being seventeen, and those under "Con," being 
four, twenty-one in all. In the surveys of land also men- 
tion was made of a "hickory tree," of a "black oak," 
and of a "cedar." In the peat deposits roots and trunks 
of large trees are frequently discovered. The kinds of 
timber most common here were oak, elm, pine, hickory, 
ash, and cedar, with a thick growth of alders, in swampy 
places, which were small and numerous. 

That peat was not burned here until after the year 1721 
is quite certain, for then its value was not understood, as 
may be seen from the fact that without timber the inhab- 
itants supposed they would be obliged to leave the Island. 
There were stones in abundance for fencing, and for 
houses, and Capt. James Sands had a stone house. But 
the absence of fuel was sufficient to compel a depopula- 
tion, a thing which the people would not have feared if 
they had known the use of peat as now understood. 

Peat as the common fuel of the Island became so about 
the year 1750. Who introduced its use we cannot ascer- 
tain. For about one hundred years it was the only fuel, 
except as small supplies were had, for a few famiUes, 
from wrecks, and from boats bringing wood from the 
main-land. The quality of the peat was found to be ex- 


cellent, making, when properly dried, a very hot fire. 
Much of it has lost its woody appearance, and looks more 
like dark mud than like fuel, and it burns with an inten- 
sity which indicates, in some instances, the presence of 
petroleum. Around its dim light in old-fashioned fire- 
places several generations were warmed and fed for a 
hundred winters, contented with their lot, and little 
dreaming of the better time coming, when cargoes of coal 
should be landed in a national harbor on Block Island, 
when stoves should supersede the fire-place, and kerosene 
and gas the dull light of peat and candles. 

It was well distributed among the inhabitants, many 
famines owning shares in the same beds, and this owner- 
ship has been transmitted down from generation to gene- 
ration until now. The beds are also numerous, and in 
every part of the Island. Some cover several acres, and 
others are much smaller. Some are shallow, and others 
are deep, and most of them were formed by vegetable 
matter, leaves, bark, nuts, grass, ferns, decayed wood, etc., 
that for ages had been washed down the surrounding 
steep httle hill-sides. Thus peat beds were deposited upon 
some of the highest parts of the Island, as upon Clay 
Head, and the supply was ample, if not exhaustless. 

The present quantity of peat on the Island cannot be 
estimated easily. Those best prepared to judge readily, 
admit that if the present population, eleven hundred and 
fifty, were to remain uniform for a hundred years, with 
no other fuel than the peat which they now have, their 
supply would be abundant. Three beds of considerable 
known size, that may be very much larger than known to 
be, one on the east side of the Island, and two on the 
west, extend a considerable distance from the shore into 
the ocean. It is stated by Mr. Anderson Dickens, a 
gentleman of careful observation and truthful estimate, 
that at low tide, on the west side, he has traced one bed 


from high-water mark one quarter of a mile out into the 
sea and there brought away peat that burned well after it 
was dried. Similar observations warrant the above esti- 
mation of the one hundred years' supply. It is still used 
to a considerable extent, and where it is used the passer- 
by is generally informed by its peculiar odor. 

Tug is its more common name among the Islanders, a 
name applied to it more than a century ago, and refers to 
the hard work of getting it from the bed. There it is 
very wet and heavy. Sometimes it lies so deep as to 
require much effort to throw it out with shovels. It is 
then carted away in the consistency of mud, and dumped 
upon smooth ground where it is made into balls, about six 
inches in diameter, with naked hands, and these balls are 
dropped side by side upon the sward, flattening out con- 
siderably next to the ground, and there are left to dry for 
one, two, or three weeks, and then they are stacked up in 
little pyramids about three feet high until thoroughly 
dried, when they are drawn in carts to the tug-house. A 
fire made from it needs to be frequently replenished. Its 
value, in equal quantity with hard wood, is some less than 
the latter. Peat dug in 1875, on the Island, 544 cords. 

During the past few years many cords of wood have 
been brought from Long Island, and sold for about the 
same as it costs upon the main-land. 

Hard coal, as fuel upon Block Island, was introduced 
about the year 1846. Previous to that it was valueless 
here because there were no stoves in which it could be 
burned. A cargo of it thrown from a wreck was lying 
then in Cow Cove. Jonathan Ball, going to Providence, 
took a ton of it in his boat, and on his arrival sold it to a 
Mr. Lloyd for one pound of tobacco, as previously stated. 
When first introduced some had great fears of its burning 
up their stoves. Now it is used quite extensively in 
nearly every family. About three hundred tons are con- 


sumed annually, and it is shipped to the Island directly. 
A soft species has been lately discovered on the Island, 
near the harbor. 


Sea-weed has been another indispensable resource of 
Block Island. Its soil in the outset was fertile, but its 
fertility soon woulgl be exhausted unless duly replenished. 
As long ago as 1779 it was a serious question with far- 
mers how they should maintain the productiveness of 
their land. Even during the Revolution, when communi- 
cation between the Island and the main was almost anni- 
hilated, and so many articles from the main were needed 
here, the little boat that brought back other necessaries 
brought also '' a quantity of ashes," and these were doubt- 
less intended for the soil, but were quite inadequate. 
That the use of sea-weed as a fertilizer was common 
anciently is evident from the antiquity of the claims 
established along the beach. The tenacity with which 
these claims are now held by the Islanders indicates their 
value. Without the grasses torn from the rocks along 
the shore, and from the meadows on the bottom of the 
sea — torn loose and driven upon the shores during the 
storms of autumn, winter, and spring, the farms of Block 
Island, long ago, would have become utterly barren. 
This is easily demonstrated by the sterile condition of 
those fields too common here that might never repay the 
cost of making them fertile. The same is also proved by 
the productiveness of the many fields where the sea com- 
pensates for the exhaustion of the ample harvest. 

The shores of the Island are minutely divided into 
claims, where each man gathers this invaluable fertilizer. 
In the midst of storms, and immediately after them, men 
and boys may be seen with forks and rakes gathering it 
on the beach, not waiting always for it to land, lest the 


receding tide or change of wind might bear it away 
beyond their reach. While it is attainable it is either put 
into piles on the shore, above the tide, and subsequently 
carted to the farm, or it is put directly into the vehicle 
and spread upon the field, or put into large heaps of com- 
post near the fields for which it is intended. In the latter 
case it is usually composted with soil, muck, and fish offal, 
lying from fall until spring, and frequently it is put into 
barn-yards, and into pig-yards until it is decomposed, or 
nearly so. 

Sea-weed is used in various ways. On arable lands it 
is either spread over the field and then plowed under, or 
it is put into the hill by the planter, who uses it freely for 
corn, potatoes, beans, and garden vegetables. For grass, 
its most profitable use seems to be that of covering the 
meadow completely in autumn. Two important things 
are thus accomplished — ^protecting the grass-roots, in the 
absence of snow, from the frosts, winds, and sun in winter, 
and at the same time nourishing the soil by the salt in the 
sea-weed, and by the decomposition of the latter. Thus 
beautiful crops of the best quahties of grass are produced, 
the soil kept from sterility, and the Island saved from an 
otherwise inevitable depopulation. 

The quantity of sea-weed used upon the Island is im- 
mense. The annual gathering begins in October and con- 
tinues, at intervals, until April. The portions of the 
beach owned by the town exhibit the greatest industry. 
There the weed is common property, and those who are 
there first in the morning, latest at night, and wade into 
the surf the deepest, are generally most profited, except- 
ing those who thus secure a crop of pains called rheumatic. 
This kind of industry, common and private, on public 
and individual beaches, secures an annual value that could 
not be bought of the Islanders for twenty thousand dol- 
lars, nor could they get an equal quantity of fertilizers 


from abroad for fifty thousand dollars. Its quantity, as 
reported by the last census, was six thousand cords, gath- 
ered on the shores of Block Island in the year 1875. 
This quantity is equal to over ten thousand single team 
loads, and each load is worth more than two dollars. 
Hence, this resource of the Island, during the period of 
twenty-five years, amounts to the handsome sum, or its 
equivalent, of half a million of dollars. 

That sea-weed is an indispensable resource here is de- 
monstrated thus : Without it the Island would become 
sterile ; without a productive soil here the population 
could not be supported, since for that the fisheries are 
inadequate, and neither manufacturing nor commerce 
here exists. But the Islander rejoices in the abundance 
of the sea which supplies him with fish as well as with 


The natives, centuries ago, were greatly dependent 
upon the fisheries of the Island for their support. To 
what degree they subsisted upon fish we have no means 
of knowing. The only relics of their implements for 
fishing with which the present Islanders have any knowl- 
edge, are the stone sinkers used on the fish-lines of the 
Indians. These were round pebbles weighing from half 
a pound to two pounds, taken from the beach. They 
were fastened to the lines by having a groove cut around 
them into which the line was sunk and tied. Their size 
and weight are good evidence of the depth of water in 
which they were used, and this depth indicates the size 
and kind of fish caught by the Manisseans. Their wam- 
pum strings were evidence that they did not fish with 
"grape vines" for lines, as some have supposed. For 
hooks they may have used a sharp, slender tooth fastened 
to a bone, or to a slim stone for a shank, as did the ancient 


natives of the Sandwich Islands. That the Indians 
caught fish in 1675 may be inferred from the fact that 
then Peter George's Negro, Wrathy, was made the more 
wrathy by being whipped with twelve lashes for "staling 
fish from Steven, the Endian." 

The fisheries of Block Island were doubtless considered 
as one of its unfailing resources by the first and early 
settlers, and as such the fisheries have proved to be for 
more than two centuries. ' And at the present time, with 
all the modern improvements of agriculture, and with the 
increasing income from summer visitors, and all other 
resources, -there is good reason for believing that were it 
not for the fisheries here the population would soon be 
more than decimated, and by the absence caused by this 
decimation the remaining portion would be greatly re- 
duced in property and numbers within a few years. In- 
deed, the amusement of fishing, and the luxury of eating 
the fish direct from the salt water is a great attraction to 
said visitors, and this also must be included in the value 
of Block Island fisheries. 

The fishing business here was carried on in its seasons 
a hundred and seventy-five years ago. In 1702 the fol- 
lowing town record was made which is instructive in 
several points, not the least of which is the law and order 
then maintained here. We quote it entire for various 

"Apr. 14th, 1702. Then Capt. John Merritt brought 
before us one John Meeker for being a delinquent for 
absenting himself from out of said Merritt's employment, 
being his servant for the fishing season for forty shillings 
pr. month with six pounds of bread and six pounds of 
pork a week, the which considerations the said Meeker 
did promise to his faithful service till the middle of June 
or thereabouts, as by witness on oath doth appear before 
us. We therefore determine and give our judgment that 


the said Meeker shall perform the said conditions as above 
said. The forty shillings pr. month is to be paid current 
money of this Colony with cost of court, which is one 
shilling for the constable's fees, and two shillings for other 
charges which said Meeker is to pay." 
''Given under our hands, 

Simon Ray, Sen. Warden, 
Edward Ball, Dep. Warden." 

In the same year, 1702, the fishing business was carried 
on here somewhat extensively, as indicated by the fact 
that then the town sold six barrels of ''oyle for ammuni- 
tion." Even earlier than this the town engaged Robert 
Carr, in 1695, and afterward Robert Carr, Jun., to be 
^'forward in making a harbor and promoting the y^^A^*^^ 
traded The chief argument for a harbor then, and has 
been ever since, was for the benefit of the Block Island 
fisheries. As far back as 1670, the first legislative act 
for constructing a harbor here, mentions no other reason 
for so doing than the ''incouradging fishing designes.^^ 
The old pier then built, after fifty years service, had got 
the fishing business well established, and in a legislative 
act in 1723, to aid in building a new pier, the General 
Assembly, as a reason for said act, said, — '' For the want 
of a pier at said Island, for the encouragement of the 
navigation of this Colony, es2:>eciaUy the fishery, which is 
begun to be carried on successfully, &c." 

The value of these fisheries is also indicated by the 
white oak poles, now standing at the Harbor, put there 
for the convenience of the boats of fishermen. They 
were a substitute for the old and the new piers which 
had been destroyed by a storm, and as such they served 
until the construction of the present national harbor, in- 
adequate as they were, leaving a necessity on the fisher- 
men of turning out at midnight in a cold storm to yoke 


their oxen, go to the harbor, and haul their boats up the 
bank for safety. But even for this the fishing business 
paid, as neither then, nor now, have other resources been 
adequate to the needs of the population sustained on the 
Island. Nor have the hard earnings of the industrious 
inhabitants been squandered abroad for unnecessary lux- 
uries at home. It is within the memory of even the 
younger portion of the Islanders that two partners in a 
fishing boat, after selling their fish at some port on the 
main, have brought home a barrel of flour, placed it upon 
a sheet, found the middle from chime to chime, and 
"sawed it in two." 

The seasons for the principal fishing are fall and spring. 
In the fall of the year, especially in November, the inesti- 
mable droves of cod-fish travel southerly, and, by the 
uniformity of their movements, evidently well understand 
the "paths of the seas." If diverted from their paths, 
and likely to be overtaken by a storm in too shallow 
water, they are sagacious enough to swallow smooth peb- 
bles for more ballast, or to enable them to sink deep to 
prevent the storm from driving them ashore. From this 
fact their captors have sometimes been warned of their 
own dangers, which are neither few nor small. To find 
the paths most frequented by these deep sea passengers is 
one of their means of success, and when they do not " strike 
them " in one path, they know where to try them in an- 
other. These paths lie aU around the Island which has 
been to millions of fish as it has been to multitudes of 
vessels — a block in the ocean, on which many have been 
wrecked. In the autumn fi^shing, the cod come much 
nearer than in spring, and this is a great favor to the 
Islanders, as they have less distance to go in the short 
days, and are less exposed to the dangers of the sea in 
returning, as they are obliged, at times, to come into har 
bor quickly for shelter from a sudden storm. They fish 


with hand lines, in water from ten to twenty fathoms 
deep. The salt water is so softening to the skin, and the 
weight of the cod is so great that cots or gloves are nec- 
essary to protect the hands. The deep grooves cut by the 
lines in the oak "gunnels" of the old boats indicate the 
amount of ''hauling," and the value of the business. One 
old fisherman was heard to say of his boat, then about 
thirty years old, — ''That old craft has had fish enough in 
her to sink her with specie," and he was not wide of the 
truth. "High-hook," is the term that distinguishes the 
best fisherman for a day or longer. " Wlio is high-hook 
to-day ?" is a common inquiry after thirty or forty boats 
have landed at the harbor. 

After the fall fishing, when winter has set in, there are 
a few smacksmen who continue through the cold weather. 
Their vessels have decks, cabins, fires, berths, and cooking 
conveniences. In their center is a "well" — a place open 
from top to bottom, admitting sea water equal in depth to 
the draught of the vessel, and in this water, are kept 
alive by fresh water coming in at the bottom, and thus 
1,000 to 1,500 at a time are taken away to market. They 
are caught, to a considerable extent, by "trawls." 

The spring fishing is much like that in autumn, except 
in the distance from the Island. Then the "paths of the 
sea " most frequented lie at distances of five, ten, and 
twenty miles. Then the fish are moving northerly, and 
for some reason, perhaps from the course they get from 
the southerly shore of Long Island, they shun Block 
Island more than in the fall. They also seem to be more 
numerous in spring, probably because their "paths" are 
narrower. These are generally called " banks " by the 
fishermen, and indicate the best localities for fishing. 
Many more are caught, too, in the spring season, which 
begins about the first of April and continues until June. 
During this season the congenial weather, the distance of 


the sail, the number in the business, the early starting in 
the morning, the strife for the honors of being " high- 
hook," the rapid footsteps along the streets from two 
o'clock until four in the morning, the rattle of sails hoist- 
ing in the harbor, and the sailor phrases of the fishermen, 
make up a scene of life and beauty to which the' lands- 
men and even summer visitors are strangers. 

"When boats to their morning fishing go, 
And, held to the wind and slanting low, 
Whitening and darkening the small saUs show." 

It is a charming scene in the month of May, to view 
from an elevated point on the land, from thirty to fifty 
small sails, as a long, narrow cloud skirts the eastern hori- 
zon, under which the red sun begins to show his brow 
just rising out of the sea, and towards which the vessels 
are gently moving, stretching from the last ones rounding 
the breakwater to those apparently sailing into the face of 
the sun, while the stillness of nature is broken only by 
the dull music of waves along the shore. Far different 
is the scene in the afternoon, when one of the same boats 
after another straggles in, with wet and wearied fisher- 
men, with ballast of tons of stones thrown overboard to 
give place for the hungry, and hunger-stopping cod-fish — 
such as Cooper's Leatherstocking would call "sock-dolU- 
gers,^^ and when the task of dressing about forty cart-loads 
is progressing. The rapidity with which this work is 
done, until the fish in the boat are the fish in the pickle, 
is worthy of observation. The process, where two or 
three parties are concerned in the boat, is this : 

The fish are thrown upon the shore; if one owns the 
boat, and another is his partner in fishing, the fish are 
divided into three equal parts; one man then turns his 
face from the fish, while the other man points to one pile 
and says, <' "Whose is that?" the other answers, as he 


chooses ; and the same is done to one of the other piles, 
leaving the third share as due to the boat, or its owner. 
This division is made quickly, and the answers from the 
man who turns his face from the divided fish are final. 
Then begins the work of dressing, carrjdng to the fish- 
house, and salting. In the meantime farmers are there 
with carts and oxen to get the offal to fertilize their 
fields. About the middle of the afternoon some one by- 
general consent is proclaimed ''high-hook," and squads of 
tired men are seen propelling their heavy feet homeward 
to report the success of the day, to eat a fisherman's meal 
well prepared, and to go to bed, sometimes, with the sun, 
and to rise again several hours the earher. Occasionally 
their day's work is much more brief, and less profitable, 
as when a sudden storm comes down like a hawk upon a 
brood of chickens. Then a speedy return to the harbor 
begins, in some instances between the casting of the 
anchor on the fishing ground and the dropping of a hook 
into the water, or even before the casting of the anchor. 
Many anxious eyes have watched them thus returning over 
a sea suddenly thrown into fury by a storm that came 
from afar with fearful velocity. The casualties, however, 
have been almost miraculously few. 

The quantity caught in the spring is considerably larger 
than that secured in the fall, but the income from the one 
season is about the same as that from the other, for in 
spring more are spoiled in drying, by being sun-burned, 
and in the fall the profits of dog-fishing, previous to that 
for cod, yields a considerable income from the oil, and the 
carcasses of the dog-fish used for the fields, a use that 
might be made more profitable, if instead of leaving them 
scattered upon the meadows, to waste their best fertilizing 
qualities in the air, making it offensive and unhealthy, the 
farmers would save that waste by putting said fish into a 
heap of compost. If any doubt this let them remember 


that the smell alluded to is nothing but fish manure in the 
air, from which place they do not get it back again. 

The summer fishing of Block Island with hooks, though 
not to be compared with that of fall or spring, is con- 
siderable. It is carried on principally by a few who supply 
the hotels, boarding-houses, and famihes of the Island, 
and occasionally send away a quantity packed in ice. 
They catch blue-fish, or ''horse mackerel," as they are 
called, mostly. They are in greatest demand by the 
thousands of visitors. 

Pound-fishing, is a new branch of the business at Block 
Island. It was commenced in 1867 by a company of 
Islanders whose success was sufficient to lead to the con- 
struction of a second pound in 1868. Two more were 
set in 1874. The first company has been dissolved, and 
the other three remain. They are in operation during the 
summer, and begin soon after the spring storms, and are 
taken up before the rough seas of the fall destroy their 
seines and carry away their spiles. The following de- 
scription of one will apply to all. 

Pound No. 3 was established in 1874, and was con- 
structed thus : A straight line of spiles, oak, twenty -five 
feet apart, is run from the shore, at right angles with the 
beach, 1,800 feet, driven down firmly by a spile-driver. 
From the shore end to the other the bottom descends 
gradually until at the latter the water is thirty feet deep. 
This long line of spiles may be considered as fence-posts 
rising about ten feet above the water. To these posts is 
fastened with ropes and cords a fence of cotton netting, 
rising from the bottom of the sea several feet above the 
surface of the water. This netting is made the same as a 
seine, and is made in pieces fifty-six feet long by fifty -four 
feet in width, and is fitted to the depth of water. This 
Line of spiles and netting is called the leader. 

The sea or deeper end of the leader terminat«^s in that 


division of the pound called the heart, so called on account 
of its form, which is constructed of spiles and seine the 
same as the leader. 

Imagine, now, a thousand fish, some shad, some scup, 
some cod, and other kinds coasting along the Island until 
they come to the "leader,'' from both directions. As 
they cannot safely come ashore to go around that fence, 
they swim along the leader intending to go around the 
deep water end ; but when they have gone around that 
end they find their noses running against the fence of the 
''heart," and they go from side to side in that and still 
keep the notion of going into still deeper water, sailor- 
like, until they escape from the opening seven feet wide, 
at the little end of the heart, into the Pound proper. 
Here they are as secure as stray cattle locked in a pound 
upon the land, and in water forty feet deep. 

This pound is made of spiles and twine as was the 
leader. It is fifty by fifty-six feet square, and its bottom 
is covered with the same netting that forms its sides. 
Should a few fish chance to pass out of it through the 
mouth of the heart they are quite certain to be led back 
again by the deceitful meshes of this structure. The 
sides of the pound are so arranged that they can be raised, 
and thus the fish in it may all be turned over to one side, 
and there scooped out with wire baskets, and transferred 
to the smack adjacent that takes its cargo quickly to New 
York, and then brings back a smaller cargo of money to 
the fishermen who are very faithful pound-keepers. 

On one side of the pound are two cars, each adjacent 
to the pound, and twenty-eight feet by twenty-five, and of 
the same depth as the pound, and constructed of the same 
materials. They are used for keeping a surplus of fish 
that might accumulate, by transferring them to it from 
the pound. 

The term pound, in general, means all its parts, namely. 


the leader, the heart, the pound proper, and the cars. The 
spiles are from twelve to fifty feet in length, and 130 are 
used. The whole cost of this pound was $2,500. 

The spiles and netting are all put down each spring, 
and taken up at the close of the summer fishing. The 
smack that carries the fish to New York has one-half the 
income of the pound. "What that is we learn best from 
the thriving appearances of the pound fishermen, and yet 
they well earn their money in cost, risk, and labor. The 
pounds are all on the west shore of the Island, and well 
pay the visitors to them for their trouble, as the gentle- 
manly fishermen row the strangers out into their large 
and lucrative "heart," so deceitful to the ocean "aris- 

The superiority of the Block Island cod-fish is well 
known. This is owing to the advantages for curing them 
at the fishermen's homes. They are dried there immedi- 
ately after they are sufficiently pickled, and as soon as 
possible taken to market with a freshness that has no 
reference to salt, and which cannot be preserved by 
remoter fisheries, or even by fishermen who have no 
flakes upon the Island. 

The drjdng process, especially in spring, is very critical. 
Many a quintal has been lost by an hour's neglect in too 
bright a sun unaccompanied by a cooling breeze. To 
many of the very respectable women of Block Island the 
public are indebted for much of the fine flavor of their 
fish preserved by the nice process of drying while the 
men are away in their boats. 

The value of the Block Island fisheries to the inhabi- 
tants of the Island, if we estimated them with reference 
to the quantity exported, to what is consumed on the 
Island, and in reference to fertilizing uses, or in other 
words, if we estimate them by the sum necessary to buy 

out all the annual benefits of them to the Islanders, may 


safely be said to be not far from an annual sum of 

This estimate includes all the income which the fish- 
eries secure through visitors, through exportation, home 
consumption, and fertilization, and without this income 
the Island would be depopulated well nigh, if not quite 
to the ruin of good society. Therefore we conclude this 
article on the Resources of the Island with the conviction 
that for one hundred years peat was an indispensable re- 
source to the inhabitants, and that sea-weed, and the fisheries 
now are each a sine qua non. 

Whales, for many years, have frequently been seen 
about Block Island. They are considered dangerous to 
the fishermen, and of but little value, on account of their 
being the hump-hacked species, and about as useless for oil 
as a camel for food. The columns of white water thrown 
into the air, and seen from the Island, tell plainly who 
are there. 

The whales and the fishermen have a similar fear of 
each other. The latter avoid the presence of the former, 
and vice versa. On one occasion a father and son were in 
their boat ; the former in the bow, the latter in the stern, 
just a few yards back of which a whale was seen, head 
towards them, and able to sink them instantly. The son 
took a ballast stone to throw at him ; but the father for- 
bade him. The whale gave a beautiful comment on Gen. 
ix, 2, where it is said : " The fear of you and the dread 
of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon 
every fowl of the air, upon aU that moveth upon the 
earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea^ He saw the 
fishermen, feared them, and sank into the deep. 

Sea Moss. The gathering of this along the" shores of 
Block Island has become a source of considerable revenue. 
The moss is the same as that generally known as " Irish 
moss," and is secured during the months of summer. 


The first one known to have gathered it for the market 
here was a Mr, James West, who was not a native of the 
Island. He introduced the business about the year 1850, 
and instructed the Islanders in the process of drying and 
bleaching. He died in April 1875. 

The moss grows upon the rocks below high water mark, 
and also below the low water mark. At low tide the 
women and children avail themselves of the most favor- 
able opportunity for picking it from the rocks, or bowl- 
ders, and they even venture into the water waist deep at 
low tide in warm weather to secure it, enjoying the bath 
with the lady bathers on the east beach, and also the 
pleasure of accumulating a means of subsistence. 

The moss is all of one quality when taken from the sea. 
It is then designated as Hack moss, and when this is dried 
it is sold at the Island stores for two cents a pound, and 
the merchants pack it in barrels and sell it for three cents 
a pound in the cities. Another quality is given to this 
moss by the slow and patient process of bleaching. This 
is done by keeping the moss in the sun, where it is mois- 
tened and dried until it loses its color, and becomes white 
moss. This brings a much larger price than the other, 
and is more profitable to the producer. It sells in barter 
at the stores for seven cents a pound, is there packed in 
barrels, and sold to city druggists for eight cents a pound. 
It is brought in bags of five to thirty pounds each to the 
stores by the women and children. The quantity of 
Block Island sea moss thus accumulated annually aggre- 
gates to more than ten tons, and this, as one of the minor 
resources, secures an income of over a thousand dollars to 
the Island. But little of the moss is used by the inhab- 
itants. Mr. Lorenzo Littlefield is by far the most exten- 
sive dealer in this commodity. 



These are so unlike others that they attract much atten- 
tion. They have keels, at an angle of forty-five degrees 
with which rise the stern and stem posts, with "lapstreak " 
sides of cedar, with bows and sterns nearly alike, open, 
with two masts and narrow, tapering sails, of one to four 
tons burthen, sitting deep in the water, and unequaled for 
safety in the hands of the Islanders. While their number 
has averaged over forty during the last fifty years, not a 
life of an Islander has been lost on account of the sea 
unworthiness of the boats. They have been known to 
sail into the winds in storms that would quickly swamp 
larger vessels that should attempt to follow them. The 
masts are mere poles without shrouds and jib-stays, and 
by their elasticity adapt themselves to the force of the 
wind. While visiting the ports along the Rhode Island 
and Connecticut coasts and rivers they are quickly distin- 
guished by their peculiarities, and are sometimes called 
double enders from Block Island. Where, and how their 
model originated it is not easy to ascertain. It is doubt- 
ful whether they will ever be superseded while the Island 
continues. They correspond materially to the boats an- 
ciently called pinnaces in New England. Cobble stones 
are used for ballast, and shifted from side to side when 
necessary. Prof. Baird, of the Smithsonian Institute, 
exhibited a model of a Block Island boat at the Centen- 
nial, made and rigged by his order. 


No part of the United States, probably, has suffered 
more inconvenience from a want of mails than Block 
Island. For one hundred and seventy years it had none 
at all. Its correspondence was through offices on the 
main, principally at Newport. 

The first mail to Block Island was established in Dec. 


1832. Capt. Samuel W. Rose was contractor and carrier 
of it four years, at $416 a year, leaving the Island 
Wednesday morning at 8 o'clock, and Newport the next 
day at the same hour, wind and weather permitting. 
This was done in a "middling sized open sail boat." 

In 1857 a writer said : — ''The arrival of the mail is 
an event of special interest in a community thus situated, 
and its contents are called out and taken by those assem- 
bled around, either for themselves or neighbors, without 
delay." This custom continued up to the year 1876. 
Suitable P. 0. boxes are now provided for individuals. 

Previous to 1869 the mail was carried for many years 
by Capt. Wm. Rose, the last year of whose contract, on 
account of his death, it was carried by his son, John E. 
Rose, now known gfs the enterprising Capt. John E. Rose, 
of the fine packet, Nathan H. Dixon. 

Capt. John K Rose, in 1869, but recently arrived at his 
majority, contracted for the carrying of the mail during 
the next term of four years. In bidding for that con- 
tract he showed a "grit " worthy of better pay. A com- 
petitor and he ran their bids down to the sum of one cent 
a year, and the mail between Block Island and Newport 
was therefore carried four years for four cents, and Capt. 
John E. Rose says he has received only one cent of that 
pay yet, and that the one cent was paid him by a man in 
Providence who wanted to buy distinction by paying from 
his own pocket the whole expense of carrying the Block 
Island mail one year. The Captain's enterprise and per- 
severance have put him handsomely and domestically 
beyond the need of the three cents still due to him from 
the United States. 

During the last four years the mail has been carried to 
Newport tri-weekly most of the time in the Henry B. 
Anthony, a staunch packet commanded by Capt. Addison 
Rose who has distinguished himself by being on time, by 


dangers braved, and by great skill in managing Ms 
schooner. Some will remember him for laying his marine 
troubles to some "Jonah aboard." 

The first postmaster of Block Island was Wm. L. Wright, 
and his office was his bed-room. 

The following, furnished by the Postmaster-General, is 
inserted here for reference, as to postmasters and appoint- 

Wm. L. Wright, appointed 13th Dec, 1832. 

Samuel Dunn, " 26th July, 1837. 

Alfred Card, '' 12th June, 1841. 

George Rose. '' 23d Sept., 1845. 

Rev. Charles C. Lewis, " 17th Apr., 1852. 

Rev. Elijah Maccomber, " 17th May, 1855. 

Samuel J. Osgood, " ' 4th Aug., 1860. 

Wm. L. Milikin, " 5th June, 1861. 

The last one named is the present incumbent, in Jan- 
uary, 1877. 

In addition to the great improvement of the "An- 
thony," with her ample deck, hold, and neat cabin, and 
courteous crew and captain, over the open boats in which 
the mail had been carried previously, the recent proposals 
for a new contract contemplate the carrying of a daily 
maU in a steamer from Block Island to Newport, from 
the first of June, 1877, to Sept. 30th, and from October 
first to May 31st tri -weekly, leaving Newport at 8 a. m., 
and Block Island at 8 a. m., at all seasons. This arrange- 
ment will be a great accommodation to the public in visit- 
ing the Island in summer, and also to the Islanders in 
communicating with other places. Indeed, the increasing 
popularity of Block Island as a summer resort, and the 
rapidly increasing multitude who seek its luxuries demand 
enlarged facihties for communication. Business men in 
these times cannot remain quietly long at any place with- 


out a daily paper fresh from the press, and frequent re- 
ports as to the run of their business. To the great advant- 
ages to the public, and to the Island, derived from the 
Government Harbor here should be added, and probably 
will be, at no distant day, a signal station, by which hourly 
information from all parts of the country could be ob- 
tained, and great benefit conferred upon commerce. After 
that is done those upon the Island will talk no more 
of "going to America," for they will be in it, and not 
farther from Newport, communicatively, than they would 
be in Europe. 

About the year 1851 a long and severe storm occurred, 
at the time of an election, and for want of communica- 
tion with Block Island, the State of Rhode Island was 
unable to get returns from New Shoreham, alias Block 
Island, and thus the decision of the election was kept back 
about twenty-one days, the storm lasting that time. 




It is impossible to give as full an account of them as is 
desirable. As they did not differ, however, from other 
Indians, materially, what is known of other aborigines 
may be taken, for the most part, as a knowledge of those 
of Block Island. The few scattered fragments of inform- 
ation here put together have been gathered from various 
sources, but in all cases are authentic. If it should seem 
to any that these Indians were more mild and peaceful 
than those on the main-land, since they committed less 
violence upon the early settlers, and that too while they 
were so greatly in the majority that they could have mas- 
sacred every white person any day, during a considerable 
period of years, such should consider the restraining 
influences which compelled these Indians to be peaceful. 

Twenty-five years before the sixteen families came to 
Block Island a terrible lesson was taught the Manisseans 
by the white people of Massachusetts for the killing of 
Captain Oldham, a trader here. Then they learned, as 
never before, the superiority of white men, as a few with 
fire-arms overpowered the whole Island, armed with bows 
and arrows. Endicott's slaughter of their warriors, de- 
struction of their year's harvest of corn, burning of their 
mats and wigwams, and the very daring of the settlers, 
struck a terror to the natives of the Island. 

Moreover, at this time, Ninicraft, the Narragansett 


chief of the Manisseans, was closely flanked by two for- 
midable powers. On the one side were the fierce Pequots, 
" a powerful nation that had, by their conquests and cru- 
elties, struck terror to all the nations of Indians round 
about them/' They had formed alliances sufficient to 
resolve to exterminate the English. Ninicraft, a nearer 
neighbor to the English, knew the power of the English 
better than did the Pequots. He dared not become an 
ally of Sassacus, the great Pequot Sachem, said to be "a 
god that nobody could kill," for two reasons, viz. : the 
fear of subjugation to the Pequots, and the danger of 
destruction from the English. He became an ally to the 
latter against the former, and when he had seen the pow- 
erful Pequots humbled by the slaughter of one thousand 
warriors before a handful of Englishmen who lost but 
two lives in the battle led on by Captain Mason, he well 
knew what consequences to expect from any hostilities of 
his men upon Block Island. It was not, therefore, a lack 
of hostile feelings and savage ferocity that restrained the 
Manisseans from destroying the early settlers, but self 
interest and the force of circumstances. And yet, enough 
of their nature was exhibited at times to cause great 
alarms in the little insular colony. 

The first information which we gain of these Indians 
is obtained from the French navigator, Yerrazzano, in 
his report to Francis I, king of France, in 1524. In 
speaking of Block Island he said : "It was full of hilles, 
covered with trees, well peopled, for we saw fires all along 
the coaste.^'' He probably sailed along the west shore, 
between the Island and Montauk. as he was bound north 
along the coast from the Carolinas. From the west side 
he rounded Sandy Point, and thus obtained a view of the 
northerly and easterly shores of the Island, enabling him 
to judge of its size and population without landing. A 
little effort of the imagination furnishes a view of the 


Island then, three hundred and fifty years ago, when the 
aboriginal lords of the soil, never disturbed by the face 
of a white man, with their squaws and papooses, sat 
around their summer evening fires, eating their succotash, 
hominy, clams, fish, and wild game, braiding mats 
and baskets, and repeating the traditions of their fore- 
fathers, or in their wild war-dances, with painted faces, 
with demon yells and grimaces and horrid threats, cele- 
brating their victories over invaders from the Mohegans 
of Montauk, or the Pequots from the main-land. 

Of their personal appearance no better description can 
be given, perhaps, than that which is furnished of their 
neighbors by Mr, P. Vincent, in his account of the Pequot 
war. He says : '' Only art and grace have given us that 
perfection which they want, but may perhaps be as ca- 
pable thereof as we. They are of person straight and tall, 
of limbs big and strong, seldom seem violent or extreme 
in any passion. Naked they go, except a skin about their 
waist, and sometimes a mantle about their shoulders. 
Armed they are with bows and arrows, clubs, javelins, 



The second assault upon the English by the Indians in 
New England, was made by the Manisseans in the year 
1636. Mr. Niles, born upon Block Island, in 1674, in his 
youth conversed freely with the old natives, as well as 
read and conversed with the best informed on the main- 
land concerning the Indians. He, in the main, is good 
authority. This assault, he says, was made upon Captain 
Oldham, a trader from Boston, whom the Indians killed, 
" with all his company, how many is uncertain. He went 
thither on a friendly trading voyage with the natives 
there ; but, as it was said, they fell into an unhappy 
quarrel which issued in the abovesaid slaughter." Mr. 
Niles, probably, got his information principally from the 

Oldham's murder. 51 

Islanders, for of this assault, and of Captain Endicott's 
expedition to punish the offenders, he says: "We have 
no particular account." He had not read the history of 
said expedition written by one of Endicott's ofiBcers, Cap- 
tain Underhill, who says : '-The cause of our war against 
the Block Islanders was for taking away the life of one 
Master John Oldham, who made it his common course to 
trade among the Indians. He coming to Block Island to 
drive trade with them, the Islanders came into his boat, 
and having got a full view of commodities which gave 
them full content, consulted how they might destroy him 
and his company, to the end they might clothe their 
bloody flesh with his lawful garments. The Indians hav- 
ing laid the plot, into the boat they came to trade, as they 
pretended ; watching their opportunities, knocked him on 
the head, and martyred him most barbarously, to the great 
grief of his poor distressed servants which by the provi- 
dence of God were saved." Niles says he was killed wiih 
all Ms company. Underhill says the Indians "consulted 
how they might destroy him and his company,^'' and to this 
adds that Mr. Oldham's poor distressed servants were saved. 
As Niles had a personal acquaintance with natives who 
were doubtless eye-witnesses of the tragedy, his statement 
that Oldham "with all his company ^^ was killed seems to 
be the more reliable. A different version is given else- 

The principal points of the retribution from Massa- 
chusetts for the killing of Captain Oldham are contained 
in the following extracts from Captain Underbill 's account 
of the expedition against the Manisseans. 

"This Island lying in the, roadway to Lord Sey and 
the Lord Brooke's plantation, a certain seaman called 
John Gallup, master of the small navigation standing 
along to the Mathethusis Bay, and seeing a boat under 
sail close aboard the Island, and perceivina; the sails to be 


un skillfully managed, bred in him a jealousy whether that 
the Island Indians had not boldly taken the life of our 
countryman and made themselves masters of their goods. 
Suspecting this, he bore up to them, and approaching 
near them was confirmed that his jealousy was just. See- 
ing Indians in the boat, and knowing her to be the vessel 
of Master Oldham, and not seeing him there, gave fire 
upon them and slew some ; others leaped overboard, 
besides two of the number which he preserved alive and 
brought to the Bay. 


The blood of the innocent called for vengeance. God 
stirred up the heart of the honored Governor, Master 
Henry Vane, and the rest of the worthy magistrates to 
send forth a hundred well-appointed soldiers, under the 
conduct of Captain John Endicott, and in company with 
him that had command, Capt. John Underbill, Capt. 
Nathan Turner, Capt. Wm. Jenningson, besides other 
inferior officers." 

Here it may be well to remark that these officers and 
soldiers seem to have protected themselves against the 
arrows of the enemy by wearing helmets, thick, stiff 
collars, and breastplates. Captain Underhill breaks the 
thread of his narrative to express his obligation to his 
wife for inducing him to take his helmet contrary to his 
intention. He says : " Let no man despise advice and 
counsel of his wife, though she be a woman." 

" Coming to an anchor before the Island, we espied an 
Indian walking by the shore in a desolate manner, as 
though he had received intelligence of our coming. 
[Probably on the bathing-beach.] Which Indian gave 
just ground to some to conclude that the body of the 
people had deserted the Island. But some knowing them 
to be a warlike nation, a people that spend most of their 


time in the study of warlike policy, were not persuaded 
that they would upon so slender terms forsake the Island, 
but rather suspected they might lie behind a bank [the 
present sand-hills, then a continuous bank], much like the 
form of a barricado. Myself with others rode with a 
shallop, made towards the shore, having in the boat a 
dozen armed soldiers. Drawing near to the place of land- 
ing, the number that rose from behind the barricado were 
between fifty or sixty able fighting-men, men as straight 
as arrows, very tall, and of active bodies, having their 
arrows notched. They drew near to the water's side, and 
let fly at the soldiers, as though they had meant to have 
made an end of us all in a moment. They shot a young 
gentleman in the neck through a collar, for stiffness as if 
it had been an oaken board, and entered his flesh a good 
depth. Myself received an arrow through my coat-sleeve, 
a second against my helmet on the forehead ; so as if 
God in his providence had not moved the heart of my 
wife to persuade me to carry it along with me I had been 
slain." [The Captain did not seem to consider that the 
hearts and arrows of the Indians were as easily "moved" 
as the heart of his wife.] 

" The arrows flying thick about us, we made haste to 
the shore ; but the surf of the sea being great hindered 
us, so as we could scarce discharge a musket, but were 
forced to make haste to land. Drawing near the shore 
through the strength of wind, and the hollowness of the 
sea, we durst not venture to run ashore, but were forced 
to wade up to the middle ; but having once got up ofl our 
legs, we gave fire upon them. They finding our bullets 
to outreach their arrows, fled before us. In the mean- 
while Colonel Endicott made to the shore, and some of 
this number also repulsed him at his landing, but hurt 
none. We thought they would stand it out with us, but 

they perceiving that we were in earnest, fled , and left 


their wigwams, or houses, and provision to the use of our 
soldiers. Having set forth our sentinels, and laid out our 
pardues, we betook ourselves to the guard, expecting 
hourly they would fall upon us, but they observed the old 
rule, ' T'is good sleeping in a whole skin,' and left us free 
from an alarm. 

"The next day we set upon our march, the Indians 
being retired into swamps, so as we could not find them. 
We burnt and spoiled both houses and corn in great 
abundance, but they kept themselves in obscurity. Cap- 
tain Turner stepping aside to a swamp met with some few 
Indians, and charged upon them, changing some few bul- 
lets for arrows. Himself received a shot upon the breast 
of his corselet, as if it had been pushed with a pike, and 
if he had not had it on he had lost his life. 

''A pretty passage worth}^ of observation. "We had an 
Indian with us that was an inteipreter ; being in English 
clothes, and a gun in his hand, was spied by the Islanders, 
which called out to him : ' What are you, an Indian or an 
Englishman ? ' ' Come hither, ' said he, ' and I will tell 
you.' He pulls up his cock and let fly at one of them, 
and without question was the death of him. 

"Having spent that day in burning and spoiling the 
Island, we took up the quarter for that night. About 
midnight myself went out with ten men about two miles 
from our quarter, and discovered the most eminent plan- 
tation they had on the Island, where was much corn, 
many wigwams, and great heaps of mats; but fearing lest 
we should make an alarm by setting fire on them, we left 
them as we found them, and peaceably departed to our 
quarter ; and the next morning with forty men, marched 
up to the same plantation, burnt their houses, cut down 
their corn, destroyed some of their dogs instead of men, 
which they left in their wigwams. 

"Passing on towards the water's side 'to embark our 


soldiers, we met with several famous wigwams, with great 
heaps of pleasant corn ready shelled, but not able to bring 
it away, we did throw their mats upon it, and set fire and 
burnt it. Many well-wrought mats our soldiers brought 
from thence, and several delightful baskets. We being 
divided into two parts, the rest of the body met with no 
less, I suppose, than ourselves did. The Indians playing 
least in sight, we spent our time, and could no more 
advantage ourselves than we had already done, and hav- 
ing slain some fourteen, and maimed others, we embarked 
ourselves, and set sail for Seasbrooke fort." 

There are local reasons for believing the above spoils 
were made upon the northerly part of the Island, as that 
was distinguished, in the early days of the first settlers, 
for its great products of corn, and then was known by the 
name of the " Corne Neck." It is now called The Neck. 
The Indians probably fled to the southerly and westerly 
parts of the Island. They were not conquered, but only 
punished by Endicott's expedition, until a second attack 
made by Israel Stoughton, in consequence of which the 
foundation was laid for Massachusetts to claim the Island 
by right of conquest, and accordingly its chief, Mianti- 
nomo, was induced to acknowledge the claim. 

The habits of the Manisseans may be gathered from 
Capt. Underhill's account. Tlieir abundance of corn, and 
numerous, comfortable wigwams indicated their industry. 
Their " well- wrought mats," and their '' delightful baskets," 
evinced their skill, as did also their powerful bows and 
fatal arrows. Their hostile manoeuvers were evidence 
of their practice in the tactics of war. Had they suc- 
ceeded in drawing the English after them to some por- 
tions of the Island, as they once entrapped the Mohegans, 
Capt. Underbill and Col. Endicott might not have re- 
turned to their boats so cheerfully. Of their warlike 
habits Mr. Niles gives us the following account : 



''They were perpetually engaged in wars one with 
another, long before the English settled on Block Island, 
and perhaps before any English settlements were made in 
this land, according to the Indians' relation, as some of 
the old men among them informed me when I was 

" The Indians on this Island had war with the Mohegan 
Indians, although the Island lies in the ocean and open 
seas, four leagues from the nearest main-land, and much 
farther distant from any Island, and from the nearest 
place of landing to the Mohegan country forty miles, I 
suppose at least, through a hideous wilderness, as it then 
was, besides the difficulty of two large rivers. To prose- 
cute their designed hostilities each party furnished them- 
selves with a large fleet of canoes, furnished with bows 
and arrows. 

"It happened at the same time the Mohegans were 
coming here in their fleet to invade the Block Islanders, 
they were going with their fleet to make spoil on the 
Mohegans. Both being on the seas, it being in the night 
arid moonshine, and by the advantage of it the Block 
Islanders discovered the Mohegans, but they saw not the 
Islanders. Upon which these turned back to their own 
shore, and hauled their canoes out of sight, and waylaid 
their enemies until they landed, and marched up in the 
Island, and then stove all their [the Mohegans'] canoes, 
and drove them to the opposite part of the Island, where, 
I suppose, the cliffs next the sea are near, if not more 
than two hundred feet high, and in a manner perpendicu- 
lar, or rather near the top hanging over, and at the bot- 
tom near the sea- shore very full of rocks. [Near the new 
light-house.] They could escape no farther. Here these 
poor creatures were confined, having nothing over them 
but the heavens to shelter or cover them, no food to sup- 


port them, no water to quench their thirst. Thus they 
were kept destitute of every comfort of life, until they 
all pined away and perished in a most miserable manner, 
without any compassion in the least degree shown to them. 
They had indeed by some means dug a trench around 
them toward the land to defend them from the arrows of 
their enemies, which I have seen, and it is called the 
Mohegan Fort to this day." [1760.] 

That fort, probably, has long since sloughed off into 
the sea by the action of frosts and rains upon the bluffs 
for more than a century. All personal knowledge of it 
has also faded away from the Islanders. 

Of the Block Island Indians after the immigration of 
the English we have but a few outlines, bold indeed at 
first, but gradually fading to almost invisibility. In 1662 
their warriors numbered about three hundred. The 
shores of the Great Pond were evidently the most thickly 
settled by the Indians. About it Roger Williams dis- 
covered the wigwams of several petty sachems. Thither 
they resorted for fish, clams, oysters, and scallops, as large 
deposits of shells nov/ occasionally opened testify. We 
can easily imagine their lordly bearing, as several of 
these chiefs looked upon the vessel of Oldham anchored 
upon their shores, and as they laid the plot to seize his 
goods and take his life The ringleader's name was 
Audsah, and he struck the fatal blows — fatal not only to 
Mr. Oldham, but also to the Indian life on Block Island. 
The fatal seed he then planted yielded him and his fellow- 
Islanders a fearful harvest. Audsah, like Cain, became a 
fugitive, was hunted from tribe to tribe, and at one time 
was sheltered on the main by one Wequashcuck, a petty 
sachem. They had a fort on Fort Island, a description 
of them there, and their declining to fight the seventeen 
Englishmen is given in the sketch of Thomas Terry. At 
that time, Mr. Xiles says, " Their arrows were pointed 


with hard stones somewhat resembling flint. They had 
hatchets and axes of stone, with a round head wrought 
curiously, standing considerably above a groove made 
round it, to hold the handle of the axe or hatchet, which 
was bent in the middle and brought the extreme parts 
and bound them fast together, which were their handles 
to hold by and do execution with these, their weapons of 
war." This description corresponds with the shape of a 
stone axe found many years ago on Mr. John Ball's land, 
by his father, Isaiah Ball, and presented by the former to 
the writer. 

The '' dogs " of Block Island belonging to the Manis- 
seans before the English came have their descendants 
here still, it is believed. They are not numerous, but 
pecuUar, differing materially from all the species which 
we have noticed on the main-land, both in figure and dis- 
position. They are below a medium size, with short legs 
but powerful, broad breasts, heavy quarters, massive head 
unlike the bull dog, the terrier, the hound, the mastiff, 
but resembling mostly the last ; with a fierce disposition 
that in some makes but little distinction between friend 
and foe. In Jan., 1719, by an act of the town, the In- 
dians were not allowed to keep dogs. 

In 1860, a visitor on the Island wrote : "There are 
not one-fourth as many sheep here as there ought to be, 
and as there ivould be, if it were not for that crying 
nuisance, the multiplicity of dogs. The farmers dare not 
risk the dangers from canine depredations which, at the 
present time, are full as great as when wolves howled 
over the ancient hills of the Island." Query : Did the 
Island ever have wolves ? The dogs then were very 
numerous, and wanted a change from fish diet. They also 
killed geese, a large flock in one instance, and buried 
them, as a future supply of fresh meat. The dogs now 
are more civilized, perhaps better fed. 



I^he Hot-Houses, or Russian Baths, were an institution 
of the aboriginal Block Islanders. Mr. Niles has left us 
the following description of them. 

" They were made as a vault, partly under ground, and 
in the form of a large oven, where two or three persons 
might on occasion sit together, and it was placed near 
some depth of water ; and their method was to heat some 
stones very hot in the fire, and put them into the hot- 
house, and when the person was in, to shut it close up, 
with only so much air as was necessary for respiration, or 
that they within might freely draw their breath. And 
being thus closely pent up, the heat of the stones occa- 
sioned them to sweat in a prodigious manner, streaming 
as it were from every part of the body ; and when they 
had continued there as long as they could well endure it, 
their method was to rush out and plunge themselves into 
the water. By this means they pretend a cure of all pains 
and numbness in their joints, and many other maladies." 

At one time, while Ninicraft, chief of the Narragan- 
setts, was on the Island visiting his subjects, a quarrel 
arose between a few settlers and a few Indians, and fists 
and clubs were playing pretty lively, until the chief was 
called out of one of these hot-hpuses by a runner, and 
hastened to the turmoil and stopped it by rushing among 
them with a red coat in his hand, crying — "King Charles! 
King Charles ! " 

But one spot is now known to exhibit any of the 
remains of those hot-houses. It has been filled up so 
nearly that but a slight indentation in the ground remains, 
and may be seen at the south end of the Great Pond, in 
the bank near the water, and on the west side of a stone- 
wall that runs nearly in a line from Mr. Simon Ball's 
house to the pond. 



The relation of the Indians to the settlers on the Island 
soon became that of slaves to masters, as seen in the case 
of Thomas Terry, in 1669, soliciting aid from Governor 
Lovelace, of New York, and from the governor of Rhode 
Island, in recapturing six of his Indian slaves. The 
same relation is demonstrated, too, by the town records, 
as in the following instances. 

In October, 1675, the town council of Block Island 
made a law "That no Indian whatsoever shall keep any 
gun in his custody, but shall be brought to his master's 
house, in whose ground he lives, every night, and give 
notice to his master, and return the gun again the night 
of the same day hereafter, or forfeit his gun." In 1680 
an ordinance was passed prohibiting the sale of rum to an 

In 1690, Trufjo, an Indian, was sold into bondage, by 
his brothers and sisters, to Joshua Raymond for a term of 
thirteen years for thirteen gallons of rum and four cloth 
coats, the rum to be paid in annual installments of one 
gallon each. Trugo was to have his board and clothing, 
and two suits of apparel at the expiration of his bondage. 

In 1693, several Indians were arrested and fined for 
sheep-steahng, and from the record we see the existence 
of slavery. It seems very strange that the fines were no 

''Harry, — Old Ned's son, 5 

Samson, Thomas Mitchell's man, 10 

Jeffrey, Joshua Raymond's man, 10 

Big George, Mr. Sands' servant, Ned's son, 5 " 

Judging from the fines we must conclude that "Old 
Ned's" sons were five times as guilty as the others were. 
They were all arrested on suspicion, and circumstantial 
evidence was so close as to extort their confession. 


It is evident from the following law of the Island en- 
acted in 1709, that both Indian and Negro slaves were 
troublesome. It reads thus: "No Indian nor Negro 
cervants shall walk abroad After nine A Clock at night 
without his master or mistries leave, and if said servants 
or slaves shall be found or taken from home after nine A 
Clock at night by the Constable or any freeholder of s*^ 
Town and brought to the Wardens or Warden shall be 
taken and stript and receive ten laches on his or hurs 
naked back." 

From this we learn that Indian and Negro slaves were 
treated alike, to some extent, on the Island. It should 
be borne in mind, too, that this stringency was at a time 
when slavery was popular, and slave-ships were frequently 
seen in the American waters. This act was in harmony 
also with another promulgated by the state of Rhode 
Island in 1667, viz.: "That if in Rhode Island, or in any 
other towns, any Indian shall be taken walking in the 
night-time, he shall be seized by the watch and kept in 
custody till morning, and brought before some magistrate, 
which said magistrate shall deal with him according to 
his discretion, and the demerit of the said person so 

The Block Island Indians were protected by many acts 
of humanity on the part of the early settlers. Some had 
lands under their own management, as seen in the peti- 
tion of Simon Ray to the town in behalf of the heirs of 
Penewess, a petty chief, who died and left land on the 
Island from which " his ccgintrymen " were entitled to 
rent. This protection was evinced by the following act : 

"At a quartur Cort held for the town of New Shore- 
ham at the hewes of mr. Robert Gutterig the second 
tewseday In July 1675 It dead evidently apere that mr. 
gorges [George's] negro rathy [Wrathy] and John drum- 
ers sone [Drummer's son] was gilty of staling fish from 


Steven the Indian for the which wee ordur each of them 
to be whiped with 12 stripes or pay 6 shelens In mony 
or the true valii and that s'* rathe [Wrathy] is not here- 
after to be absent from his masters hews after sun set 
without leave from his s*^ mastur on penalty of the acoused 
[accused] being whiped with 12 lashes." 

The Indians, as well as the English, were protected 
against the evil of intemperance. That there were un- 
principled men who would sell them rum, regardless of 
consequences, is seen in the stratagem of Thomas Terry 
in destroying their supply furnished by a Mr. Arnold, a 
trader on Block Island. This Arnold, like others, prob- 
ably drank like the Indians and brought on a fatal attack 
of delirium tremens, or the " hoj-rors.''^ The record of 
him is this : — "Samuel Arnold, one of his Majesty's sub- 
jects being sick and outt of frame, not being in his right 
sences, Departed his house. [In the night.] The next 
morning Sarch was made for him and was found dead." 
The jury of inquest on Mr. Arnold's body gave the fol- 
lowing verdict: 

"The Jury being sollemly Ingaged came into the wood 
whare the s*^ Sam'l arnall's corps Lay and haveing strictly 
vewed s^ corps do unonnimasly agree that he being griped 
with the pains of death ran from his house, being out of 
his sences, to this wood, and Dyed a natural death." 

As a protection against Indian intemperance the town 
enacted, in 1692, the following: 

"Voted that if any person shall sell any rum, wine, 
cider, or any strong drink tq Indian or Indians upon the 
Lord's day, being the first day of the week, for any strong 
drink as aforesaid sold at such time, or delivered to any 
Indian upon barter or otherwise whereby to be a means 
to cause said Indian to be drunk on the Lord's day, every 
such inhabitant so doing shall pay into the public stock in 


money or equivalent in current specie the sum of forty 
shillings to be paid forthwith upon conviction." 

In June, 1693, Capt. William Hancock, for violating 
the above ordinance by selling rum to an Indian on the 
Sabbath, was fined twenty shillings. During this year an 
Indian boy was thrown from a cart and killed. In the 
Coroner's report it is said : — "■ The cart-wheel came 
against a stump, and suddenly overturned the Ingen lad." 


The disappearing of the Indians from Block Island was 
rapid and easily explained. Up to the year 1700 they 
numbered about 300. As these were mentioned by Niles 
in contrast with the sixteen men and a boy who chal- 
lenged them to an open field-fight, it may be inferred 
that they were men, warriors. If this inference be cor- 
rect, then we may put down their original number, at the 
time of settlement by the English in 1662, to be nearly 
1000, including the women and children. From a "Mem- 
orandum of Block Island, or Manisses, A. D. 1762, by 
Dr. Stiles," we learn to how small a number they had 
dwindled during the first century of occupancy of the 
Island by the English. He says that in 1756 there were 
"few Indians, but no wigwams." Prom the same volume 
in which this statement is contained we learn that in 1774 
the Indians of Block Island were reduced to fifty-one. 

Their disappearance from the Island may be attributed 
mainly to three causes ; Jirst, the loss of their lands ; 
secondly, their subjugation to slavery, and thirdly, the 
need of them by Ninicraft, their chief, on the main-land. 
As instances of their running away it is sufficient to refer 
to the six who left Mr. Thomas Terry ; to Chagum, after 
whom Chagum Pond is supposed to have been named, 
who ran away with a canoe, was recaptured, and re-en- 
slaved. (See Chagum Pond.) That they were not exter- 


minated by wars is certain, for we have no account of any- 
killing of Indians on Block Island after Col. Endicott's 
expedition against the Manisseans in 1636. A single 
remnant of the old aboriginal stock is living on the Island. 


Peter Churchy a full-blood Indian, fought for the Eng- 
lish, in the old French War, on the main-land, and after- 
wards returned to his native Island where he spent some 
years before his death. His grave is in the colored burial 

Mary Church, daughter of Peter, was born upon Block 
Island, and worked in different families. She had three 
sons, and three daughters whose names were Hearty N. 
Church, Sally, and Thankful. The sons' names were 
Titus, Solomon, and Isaac. All are dead except Isaac. 
They left children, now widely scattered. Two of them, 
very respectable half-breeds, females, from Stonington, 
visited the Island in the summer of 1876. 

Aaron Church, son of the above-named Titus, from his 
connection with the pirate Gibbs, has left a reputation 
that indicates his descent from the murderers of Capt. 
Oldham. In the year 1830 he shipped on board the brig 
Vineyard, early in November, at New Orleans, for Phila- 
delphia. William Thornby was captain, and William 
Roberts, mate. After the vessel had been several days at 
sea Charles Gibbs, Thomas J. Wansley, and Aaron Church 
— desperate characters, especially the first-named, entered 
into a conspiracy to capture the vessel, which contained a 
cargo of sugar, molasses, and also $54,000 in specie. On 
the 23d of Nov. they executed their piratical purpose, in 
the night, by killing Captain Thornby and his mate, Wil- 
liam Roberts, with a "pump-break," and threw their 
bodies overboard. Others of the crew, to save their lives, 
became feigned accessories, until they reached the shore 


and could expose the pirates with safety. Wansley was 
the steward, and a negro. Church was part Indian, and 
Gibbs, a native of Rhode Island, was a notorious villain, 
who probably led his accomplices into this their last crime. 

When about fifteen miles from Long Island, having 
divided the money, which belonged to Stephen Girard, 
Gibbs took the long boat, and Church the jolly boat, shar- 
ing the money between them. One Atwell was with 
Church. Gibbs landed on Long Island, was arrested, 
tried, and with Wansley executed in New York April 
22, 1831. Church started, it is said, for Block Island, 
with sails set in his jolly boat, in a rough sea, and was 
foundered, and drowned with his companions in sight of 
Gibbs and Wansley who ''saw them clinging to the 
masts." Thus the pirate Aaron Church went down with 
his ill-gotten gain. 

Isaac Church, the uncle of Aaron, is still living, at the 
age of eighty-eight, as he informs the writer. He can 
give but Httle information of his ancestry — does not know 
who was his father, but remembers well his mother who 
was more easily identfied. If his father were not an 
Indian his mother was surely a full-breed, and vice versa, 
for his hair and features are thoroughly Manissean. As 
he is older than the rest of the Islanders it is useless to 
question them about his parentage. They all, however, 
speak well of " Uncle Isaac Church," and his comfortable 
home is proof of his temperance and industry in former 
days. He has obtained distinction in a peculiar way that 
will long be remembered, viz. : Attendance at funerals. 
It is a common remark that '* he has been to more fune- 
rals than any other person on the Island," and that "he 
goes to all funerals." It is easy to predict that many will 
be at his, and that many a tender recollection of "Uncle 
Isaac " will be cherished by the children now living, who 
in maturer years will speak of him as the last and worthy 


representative of the ancient Manissean lords of the soil, 
who will soon be known only in history. 

The descendants of Isaac Church are too far removed 
from aboriginal blood to be classed with Indians. 


Of the religion of the Block Island Indians no infor- 
mation of much account is attainable. That the natives 
of New England generally had some notions of a super- 
human Being is well understood. The Pequots evinced 
this when they regarded their Chief Sassacus as " a god 
that nobody could kill," extolling him as superhuman 
because of his supposed immortality. Whatever he may 
have been, back of him in the minds of his warriors we 
see the fundamental notion of religion — the notion of 
supremacy. That notion was in the minds of the Manis- 
seans, and they have left a record of it in the beautiful 
name of their Island. For it is said by very good author- 
ity that ''Manisses," when interpreted, means, ''The Little 
God," or the "Island of the Little God." This perhaps, 
had reference to some ancient petty sachem, while the 
great sachem of the Narragansetts was near Westerly, 
R. I., as Mr. Niles says he there viewed "the remains of 
Ninicraft's fort." But all is gone but the fame of their 

It is with feelings shaded with sadness that we take 
leave of this subject, as we look out upon the hundreds of 
little hills reflected from intervening waters, where the 
arrows of the Red men secured food from the innumerable 
fowls that rested here in their fall and spring journeys 
south and north, where the lights of their wigwams 
cheered the lonely voyager — lights around which were told 
the strange legends of antiquity and the war-songs of 
victory were wildly chanted, and young men and maidens 
courted, and where even savage hearts quailed, as the 


howling of tlie tempest and the crashing thunders com- 
mingled with ''the. sound of many waters," while the 
darkness of night at intervals was banished by the light- 
nings which for an instant lighted up the green hills, their 
great and little mirrors of water, and the foaming sea 
around, all preaching to the Indian of the Great Spirit 
as directly, perhaps, as did the prophet to the more civil- 
ized when he said : '' Will ye not tremble at my presence, 

" Which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea 
By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it ; 
And though the waters thereof toss themselves, yet can they not 

prevail ; 
Though they roar, yet can they not pass over it 1 " 

Jer. V, 22. 

So He has set bounds to nations as well as to individ- 
uals, and instead of boasting of a superiority over the 
savage tribes, the last of which are fading away, it is well 
to remember the old and demonstrated saying: "We all 
do fade as a leaf." 

The "life and immortality bought to light" to us, were 
darkly seen by the Manisseans, as shown by their mode 
of burial. One of many instances may here suffice. On 
the farm now owned by Mr. Simon Ball, at the south end 
of the Great Pond, a few years ago there was a small 
land-slide which left standing in the bank in full view an 
Indian skeleton, very large, with a rude earthen jar at his 
feet well packed with scallop shells. From their known 
custom of burying eatables with the dead to supply them 
with food on their Journey to another world, it is evident 
that this earthen pot of shell-fish was there buried with 
the Indian in a walking posture for the same purpose. 
By this custom they have left good proof of their belief 
in a future life. About all, therefore, that can be attri- 
buted to them of a religious character is : LA belief in 
the existence and power of the Great Spirit. 2. A belief 


in a conscious future state ; and 3. Their dim view of the 
soul's immortality. 

Indian Head Neck, the old Indian burial-ground, has 
disclosed many human bones, and many shells which indi- 
cate the religious rite of burying food with the dead. In 
contrast with these, two heads of Indians, for some crime, 
were anciently placed upon the tops of stakes in said 
burial-ground, and from that circumstance the first settlers 
named that narrow bluff Indian Head Neck. 


Although no distinguished battles have been fought 
either on, or near Block Island, yet it has always shared 
in the great national hostilities in which our country from 
time to time has been involved. Of conflicts here between 
the Indians our knowledge is only traditionary. This 
knowledge, however, is sufficient to leave the conviction 
that from "time out of mind," this Island was a bone of 
contention between neighboring tribes upon the main-land. 
As it lies nearest to the territory occupied by the Narra- 
gansetts it naturally came under the rule of their Chiefs, 
Ninicraft, Miantinomo, Canonicus, and other more remote 
sachems in past ages. Still, it was within reach of the 
eagle- eyed Sassacus and his warlike Pequots, and even the 
more distant Mohegans beyond the Connecticut river 
coveted the fertile plantations and productive fishing 
grounds of Manisses. Tradition points to their savage 
fleet of bark canoes launched beyond "two large rivers," 
and made to skim over the briny deep by the force of 
paddles flashing in the moonlight until they were silently 
dipped at midnight along the Island's shores at Cooney- 
mus, or at Grace's Cove. It tells us too of the Mohegan 
dashes from Montauk, their shortest distance to row to 
Manisses. The Mohegan Bluffs will ever remain as a 
monument of the Narragansetts' victory over the Mohe- 
gans, and the friendship of Ninicraft their chief with the 
English will also immortalize his strategy in maintaining 
his grounds against the more warlike Pequots. Had he 
not done this the fate, too, of the little colony of sixteen 


families, far from the main-land, might have been very 
different from what it was ; for then Sassacus might have 
weakened the Narragansetts, captured Manisses, and with 
his fierce Pequots annihilated the little colony. But Nini- 
craft's alhance with the English kept his Block Island 
subjects from hostilities with the early settlers, and also 
from feuds among themselves which are said to have 
arisen previously between the Indians of the west side 
and those of the east side of the Island. 


The first act of hostility on Block Island in which white 
men participated was the killing of Capt. John Oldham 
by the Indians in 1636, an account of which is given in 
the article on Indians. 

The second act of hostility was that of Col. John En- 
dicott in 1636, in his expedition to "do justice unto the 
Indians for the murder of Mr. Oldham," and to take pos- 
session of their Island. His officers were Capt. John 
Underbill, Capt. Nathaniel Turner, Ensigns Jennison and 
Davenport. He had ninety soldiers. Winthrop says, — 
" They were embarked in three pinnaces, and carried two 
shallops and two Indians with them. They had commis- 
sion to put to death the men of Block Island, but to spare 
the women and children, and to bring them [men] away, 
and to take possession of the Island." (See article on 

This commission was not to kill all " the men," but rather 
to kill only men, and not women and children, and Endi- 
cott acted accordingly, killing only a sufficient number for 
a severe retribution and for the capture of the Island. 
Had the commission meant all, it would have said so, and 
Endicott would have obeyed. 

The Court and Council of Massachusetts sent out this 
expedition to Block Island on the 25tli of Sept., 1636. It 


is probable that Endicott, on his way to the Island, con- 
ferred with the Chief of the Narragansetts, Miantinomo, 
and perhaps with the Pequots, for one of his soldiers 
wrote back to a friend as follows : 

" We are now in readiness for Block Island, only we 
wait for a fair wind. Vfe are informed of many Indians 
there, so we expect the toughest work we have had yet." 
'' 2d day of the 6th week of our warfare. 

Israel Stoughton." 

In Winthrop's History of New England it is said : 
"They arrived at Block Island the last of August. The 
wind blowing hard at N. E., there went so great a surf 
as they had much to do to land ; and about forty Indians 
were ready upon the shore to entertain them with their 
arrows which they shot off at our men ; but being armed 
with corslets they had no hurt, only one was lightly hurt 
upon his neck, and another near his foot. So soon as one 
man leaped on shore, they all fled. The Island is about 
ten miles long, and four broad, full of small hills, and all 
overgrown with brush-wood of oak, — no good timber on 
it, — so as they could not march but in one file and in the 
narrow paths. There were two plantations, three miles 
in sunder, and about sixty wigwams, — some very large 
and fair,-»-and about two hundred acres of corn, some 
gathered and laid on heaps, and the rest standing. When 
they had spent two days searching the Island, and could 
not find the Indians, they burnt their wigwams and all 
their mats, and some corn, and staved seven canoes, and 
departed. They could not tell what men they killed, but 
some were wounded and carried away by their fellows." 

Endicott did not very thoroughly search the Island, or 
he would have found the Indians, and the heavy timber 
then standing, abundant in 1662. 

The full punishment and subjugation of the Manisseans 


were not completed by Col. Endicott until a second land- 
ing, in 1637, by the above-named Stoughton, of whom 
Winthrop (then governor of Mass.) says: "Mr. Stough- 
ton sailed with some of his company from Pequod to 
Block Island. They came hither in the night, yet were 
discovered, and our men having killed one or two of 
them, and burnt some of their wigwams, etc., they came 
to parley, and, submitting themselves to become tributa- 
ries in one hundred fathom wampum peague [beads] and 
to deliver any that should be found to have any hand in 
Mr. Oldham's death, they were all received and no more 
harm done them." 

This conclusion of the Oldham hostilities clearly shows 
how unjust a reflection has been cast upon Massachusetts 
by those who have construed Endicott's commission to 
mean that "the whole male population of the Island must 
be exterminated," and that "the women and children were 
to be brought off as captives." {Narraganseit Weekly^ for 
Aug. 30, 1860. Also foot note "4," of Winthrop, I, p. 
229.) By misconstruction the language of said commis- 
sion which meant gentleness^ in killing only tnen, and only 
enough to subdue the Island, and to bring some away as 
hostages, wholly sparing the women and children, has 
been made to mean cruelty, with much injustice to Gov. 
Vane and his Council, and " the rest of the magistrates 
and ministers," all of whom were together at the special 
session to consider the course to be taken in the case of 
the death of Mr. Oldham. They could not have been 
ignorant of the great number of Indians on the Island, 
and of the impossibility of exporting in Endicott's little 
vessels the women and children, for Roger AVilliams was 
then in constant communication with the great chiefs of 
the Island and with the Massachusetts authorities. More- 
over, Endicott's commission required him to proceed direct 
from Block Island "to the Pequods," to make war, if 


necessary with them ; but how could he do this with his 
vessels loaded down with the women and children of said 
Island ? No. Endicott's commission simply meant, — kill 
men, but spare women and children ; capture the Island ; 
bring away a few natives as hostages, and kill only as 
many men as necessary to accomplish this end ; '' thence 
go to the Pequods, &c.," and he complied with this com- 

The hostile feelings of the Block Island Indians towards 
the white settlers were latent rather than manifest, as in 
other parts of the colonies. On one or two occasions they 
were on the verge of an outbreak, as in the squabble 
between a few of them and a few settlers, and at the 
time the Indians assembled on Fort Island for a pitched 
battle, as related in the biographical sketches of James 
Sands, and of Thomas Terry. 

That the Indians of Block Island were very dangerous 
in the estimation of the settlers is evident from the acts 
passed at various times to keep them from violence. For 
there were traders then, as now, who, regardless of the 
peace and interests of society, for ''filthy lucre," endan- 
gered the lives of all by selling to the natives fire-arms 
and fire-water. In 1675, the vigilance of the citizens 
required the disarming of every Indian at sundown. 
Their guns were then delivered up to their masters, and 
returned to them in the morning. They were about 
twenty times as numerous as the English. In 1675, too, 
a " squadron " of soldiers for self defense, was maintained 
by the Islanders. It was kept up by each citizen serving 
in rotation. The house of Robert Gutterig was their 
rendezvous. There they met, according to their turns, 
before the sun was an hour high, upon failure of which 
each delinquent was obliged to pay the penalty of ''five 
shillings, and that to be kept in the hands of the treasurer 
for a common stock for ammunition." There was one 


excuse, however, then, the force of which is felt even 
now. In case the easterly wind blew strongly, accompa- 
nied by rain or snow, the soldier was excused from leaving 
home and repairing to the garrison that day, unless it 
cleared up before twelve o'clock. Flint locks and wet 
powder were then common, the latter in rainy weather. 
At this time, so far as we can learn, there was no protec- 
tion from the main -land for the infant colony. The near- 
est intimation of it is the fact that in May, 1664, Messrs. 
James Sands and Joseph Kent petitioned the General 
Assembly, and in response Roger Williams, Thomas 01- 
ney, and Joseph Torrey were appointed a committee to 
consider said petition and report on it in reference to the 
''preservation of His Majesty's peace there," on Block 

In this perilous time, 1676, the Islanders passed the 
following ordinance, viz. : '^ Voted that every male from 
the age of sixteen years old and upwards, shall provide 
himself with a sufficient fire -lock gun and two pounds of 
powder and four pounds of shot and lead at or before 
the last of March next ensuing, upon the penalty of 
twenty shillings for such neglect." At the same time the 
sale of strong drink in smaller quantities than a gallon 
was prohibited under the penalty -of twenty shillings, ex- 
cept where license was given. Rum then, as now, fired 
the savage feelings, which threatened the extermination 
of the little colony of Islanders, and up to the year 169.3 
we find stringent laws enforced to restrain unprincipled 
venders on the Lord's day, fining them forty shillings for 
selling to an Indian, ''rum, wine, cider, or any strong 
drink " to make him intoxicated. About this time King 
Philip's war was in progress, and other sachems were 
plotting the extermination of the New England colonies. 
The Islanders, therefore, must have been more or less 
than human, if they were not filled with alarm by the 


rumors of white men, women, and children on the main 
slaughtered, and tortured to death by savages, while the 
same uncivilized spirits, far outnumbering themselves, 
were lurking day and night about their scattered homes. 
It was then that the wisdom of the high-toned civilian, 
James Sands; the calm, religious faith of the pious Simon 
Ray; and the heroism of the fearless Thomas Terry were 
frequently taxed to their utmost and combined in councils 
of defense and even offense. It was then that the cot- 
tages and wigwams of Block Island were filled with 
anxious minds plotting, talking, and dreaming of blood- 
shed. It was then that a clear insight into the weakness 
accompanying the Red Man's consciousness of his inferi- 
ority, and a rational view of the comparative dangers of 
timidity and defiance on the part of the few settlers, that 
the latter, commending themselves to the God of their 
Pilgrim fathers, put their wives and children into a feeble 
garrison, and challenged their hostile neighbors to face 
them on the field of battle. To no scene of sublimer 
faith and heroism can the historian point than was exhib- 
ited on Block Island when, at Fort Island, the little band 
of sixteen men and a boy marched to the music of a 
single drum beaten for dear life by Mr. Kent, until they 
faced the frowning fort of twenty times their number, 
standing there within gunshof of the enemy armed with 
guns, bows and arrows, clubs and scalping knives. Was 
a braver challenge ever given ? A little handful of less 
than tens virtually saying to hundreds, "We stand within 
the reach of your savage weapons-r-strike the first blow 
if you dare, and we will send you all to — to the hunting 
grounds of your dead men." 

The victory thus won was so complete, without the' dis- 
charge of a gun or an arrow that from that day to the 
present, when but one Indian remains (Uncle Isaac 
Church), an unbroken friendship has continued between 


the Manisseans and their successors, a remembrance of 
which is a rich legacy to the rising generations. 


War between France and England in. 1690 greatly dis- 
turbed the peace of the colonies, no part of which, per- 
haps, was more exposed to the depredations of the former 
than was Block Island. In the month of March of that 
year the opening conflict was "proclaimed by beat of 
drum " in the streets of Newport, and not long after the 
notes of war vibrated across the waters to this Island and 
caused many a tearful cheek, and deep anxiety in the 
hearts of the bravest. In May, 1690, came a tax of s'even- 
teen pounds and ten shillings to be collected of the Island- 
ers " for the support of their Majesty's interest against the 
French and Indian enemies." Thus after thirty years of 
perils at home, they saw the distant war-cloud gathering 
and from its border saw its first few hail stones striking 
on their shores. A merciless enemy was coming on the 
wind — one that purposed, with an infidelity unbecoming a 
savage, to exhaust his own resources of cruelty, and with 
these combine the fierceness of the Indians. In no di- 
rection from their shores could the Islanders look for 
protection, except upward. The enemy came. 

To fight the American colonies was to fight England. 
The colonies on the main-land, assisted by England, were 
comparatively safe against the French invaders. But it 
was impossible to keep the ships of France from lighting, 
like harpies, on this well stored Island. 

In July, 1689, "a large bark, a barge, a large sloop, 
and a lesser one " — three men of war with their transport 
stood towards the bay on the east side of Block Island. 
The ♦inhabitants were greatly alarmed, and doubtful 
whether the vessels were French or English, hostile or 
friendly. The vessels anchored, while on the shore were 


standing brave men filled with anxiety. A boat was low- 
ered and a few approached the shore. One, when near 
enough, left the boat and stepped from rock to rock until 
he addressed, in English, with friendly words, those upon 
the shore. His name was William Trimming. They 
questioned him closely, as tkey stood holding their arms 
for defense. He made them beUeve his vessels were 
under the command of George Astin, a noted English 
privateer to whom they were friendly, that they were in 
need of wood, water, and a pilot to conduct them safely 
into Newport harbor. Having gained the confidence of 
the Islanders he returned to his vessel, and soon made 
signal for a pilot. Several, '' in hopes of some great re- 
ward," at once went aboard, and were immediately clapped 
under the hatches, and there under threats were com- 
pelled to tell what they knew of the means of defense on 
the Island. Upon this information the French, still sup- 
posed to be English, lowered three boats, and with about 
fifty men in each, having their guns concealed, approached 
the deceived and amused spectators who directed the 
enemy how to shun the hidden rocks in the Bay until 
they came to the wharf where the said guns were sud- 
denly seized and leveled at the Islanders with horrid 
threats from the invaders. The soldiers thus overpowered 
and taken prisoners, the Island became a prey to the per- 
fidious Trimming, whose men broke the guns of the 
Islanders in pieces upon the rocks and confined the owners 
in the stone house of Captain James Sands. The French 
pillaged the Island, killing all kinds of cattle for food, 
and what they did not need they killed for spoil to im- 
poverish the people. Our informant, Rev. Samuel Niles, 
says, — ''they continued about a week on the Island, plun- 
dering houses, stripping the people of their clothing, rip- 
ping up beds, throwing out the feathers, and carrying 

away the ticking." Their abuses to the venerable Simon 


Ray are related in our biographical sketch of him. They 
entered the house of Dr. John Rodman, a skillful physi- 
cian and devoted- Quaker and insulted his wife, "a very 
desirable gentlewoman," between whom and the insolent 
Frenchman the Doctor sprang, as the rufiBan cocked his 
pistol at Rodman who bared his bosom and said, — ''Thee 
mayest do it if thou pleasest, but thou shalt not abuse my 
wife." During the week of plundering on the Island the 
French in the vessels captured two English vessels bound 
up the Sound, sinking the one laden with steel, and pre- 
serving the other for her cargo of liquors. 

News of this invasion in some way reached the main- 
land while the French were upon the Island, and quickly, 
at night, a ribbon of bonfires was seen along the shore 
from Pawcatuck Point (south of Westerly, R. I.) to 
Seconet Point. This alarmed the privateers and they left 
with the intention of taking New London, but the fire 
upon them there in the harbor was so hot that they 
retreated. Meanwhile two vessels of war were fitted out 
at Newport for the defense of Block Island, under the 
command of Commodore Paine, and Captain John God- 
frey. On their arrival here, and learning of the sacking 
of the Island, they pursued the enemy. On Fisher's 
Island they surprised seventeen Frenchmen and killed the 
deceitful Trimming through whose perfi'dy Block Island 
had been captured. 

The French, on their way from New London to con- 
tinue their plundering of Block Island, met our men-of- 
war under Commodore Paine to the westward of Sandy 
Hill. There, perhaps, it was that our informant, the Rev. 
Mr. Niles, was stationed while viewing the naval battle, 
the first, probably, fought within the waters of Block 
Island. As Mr. Niles was an eye-witness, his description 
is most reliable, and we quote it here in full. 

''Our English vessels stretched off to the southward, 


and soon made a discovery of a small fleet standing east- 
ward. Supposing them to be the French they were in 
quest of, they tacked and came as near the shore as they 
could with safety, carrying one anchor to wear and 
another to seaboard, to prevent the French boarding them 
on each side at once, and to bring their guns and men all 
on one side the better to defend themselves and annoy the 
enemy. The French probably discovered them also, and 
made all the sail they could, expecting to make prizes of 
them. Accordingly they sent a periauger before them, 
full of men, with design to pour in their small arms on 
them, and take them, as their manner was, supposing they 
were unarmed vessels, and only bound upon trade. Cap- 
tain Paine's gunner urged to fire on them. The Captain 
denied, alleging it more advisable to let the enemy come 
nearer under their command. But the gunner still urging 
it, being certain (as he said) he should rake fore and aft, 
thus with much importunity, at length the Captain gave 
Mm liberty. He fired on them, but the bullet went wide 
of them, and I saw it skip on the surface of the water 
several times, and finally lodged in a bank, as they were 
not very far distant from the shore. This brought them 
to a stand, and to row off as fast as they could and wait 
until their vessels came up. When they came they bore 
down on the English, and . there ensued a very hot. sea- 
fight for several hours, though under the land, the great 
bark foremost, pouring in a broadside with small arms. 
Ours bravely answered them in the same manner, with 
their huzzas and shouting. Then followed the larger 
sloop, the captain whereof was a very violent, resolute 
fellow. He took a glass of wine to drink, and wished it 
might be his damnation if he did not board them immedi- 
ately. But as he was drinking a bullet struck him in the 
neck, with which he instantly fell down dead, as the 
prisoners (before spoken of) afterwards reported. How- 


ever, the large sloop proceeded, as the foremost vessel had 
done, and the lesser sloop Hkewise. Thus they passed by 
in course, and then tacked and brought their other broad- 
side to bear. In this manner they continued the fight 
until the night came on and prevented their further con- 
flict. Our men as valiantly paid them back in their own 
coin, and bravely repulsed them, and killed several of 

" In this action the continued fire was so sharp and 
violent, that the echo in the woods made a noise as though 
the limbs of the trees were rent and tore oii from their 
bodies ; yet they killed but one man, an Indian of the 
English party, and wounded six white men who after 
recovered. They overshot our men, so that many of their 
bullets, both great and small, were picked up on the 
adjacent shore. 

''During the next night our vessels were replenished 
with ammunition from the Island, but in the morning it 
was discovered that the enemy had taken [French'] leave. 
Our vessels pursued them so closely that they were 
obliged to scuttle the prize vessels before mentioned — ^the 
one laden with liquors, and she was overtaken while 

This first invasion of Block Island by French privateers 
aroused the country to such a degree that men-of-war 
from Boston, and from New York were dispatched to the 
rescue and for the pursuit of the enemy. 

The next act of hostilities on the Island was by a part 
of the former invaders, before the close of the same year 
1689. This second attack was in the night, and, though 
brief, was very alarming and destructive of property in a 
manner similar to that previously described. No one was 
killed. Mr. Niles, our informant, was the chief sufferer, 
as seen in our sketch of him. But as the war between 
Prance and England continued, the depredations of the 


enemy were repeated. Of the next alarm and plundering 
of the Island Mr. Niles says : 

" The French came a third time while I was on the 
Island, and came to anchor in the bay on Saturday, some 
time before night ; and acquainted us who they were and 
what they intended, by hoisting up their white colors. 
None of the people appearing to oppose them, and having 
at this time, my aged grandparents, Mr. James Sands and 
his wife, to take care of, with whom I then dwelt ; know- 
ing also, that if they landed they would make his house 
the chief seat of their rendezvous, as they had done twice 
before, and not knowing what insults or outrage they 
might commit on them, I advised to the leaving of their 
house, and betaking themselves to the woods for shelter, 
till they might return under prospects of safety ; which 
they consented to. Accordingly we took our flight into 
the woods, which were at a considerable distance, where 
we encamped that night as well as the place and circum- 
stances would allow^, with some others, that for the like 
reasons fell into our company. The next morning being 
Lord's day morning, I expressed my desire to go occultly 
and see the conduct of the French, and their proceedings. 
(See on Capt. James Sands.) 

^'Having had but little sleep the night before, I pro- 
posed to Mr. Thomas Mitchell to keep a good look-out, their motions, till I endeavored to sleep a little, 
and thus to proceed interchangeably ; when I made the 
hard ground my lodging for the time, which was long. 
Upon my awaking he lay down, and as he lay and slept, 
the French fired many guns at the house, and I heard 
several bullets whistling over my head. Suspecting they 
had made some discovery of us, I awakened him, telling 
him what I had observed, therefore that it was advisable 
to shift our quarters. Accordingly, as we were mo\'ing 
from the place we espied a large ship about a league to 


leeward of the township, riding at anchor (the fog at sea 
had been very thick till then), which happened to be Cap- 
tain Dobbins, in the Nonesuch man-of-war, stationed in 
those seas, which we at first sight supposed. This ship 
appearing put the Frenchmen into a great surprise, by 
their motions, by running up to their standard on the hill, 
then down again, and others doing the like. The man-of- 
war still making all sail possible, there being but a small 
breeze of wind at southwest, and right ahead, according 
to the sailors' phrase, they soon left the house [Capt. 
James Sands' stone house, then standing where Mr. Al- 
memzo Littlefield's lawn, east of his house, is], and with 
all speed and seeming confusion hastened to their vessel. 
Upon this we went boldly to the house, and found the 
floor covered with geese, with blood and feathers ; the 
quarters of the hogs they had killed hanging up in one 
and another part of the house — a melancholy sight to 
behold ! Their manner of dressing hogs after they had 
quartered them was to singe off the hair over a flame ; 
and their method to command the cattle was (as I saw 
when they took us before) to thrust their cutlasses in at 
their loins, and on a sudden the hind quarter would drop 
down, and as the poor creature strove to go forward, the 
blood would spout out of the hole, and fly up near or full 
out a yard in height." 

"Soon after these privateers took to their heels," they 
were hotly pursued by the Nonesuch. The former steered 
for Neman's Land, but in the fog missed their course, 
ran into Buzzards Bay, where they were land-locked and 
captured by their pursuers. Forty of the French endeav- 
ored to escape by running ashore, but were soon seized 
by the people and sent as prisoners to Boston. The rest 
Captain Dobbins made prisoners of war, and took their 
ship as a prize back to Newport." 

By this time it would seem that there coul-d be but little 


left on Block Island to tempt the enemy. But its fat cat- 
tle, swine, sheep, and poultry, together with the fabrics of 
household industry, for many years, were scented from 
afar by the freebooters of the sea. Hither they continued 
to come for plunder, and from 1698 until after 1706 it 
was in a condition like that of a continued siege, for in 
1706, the Governor and Council of Rhode Island reported 
as follows : '' We have been also this summer as well as 
the last obliged to maintain a quota of men at Block 
Island for the defence of Her Majesty's interest there." 

Meanwhile a fourth hostile demonstration was made 
upon this little <'Isle of the sea," whether by the French, 
or by pirates, is a matter of uncertainty, as the latter 
were then numerous. At that time Capt. Robert Kidd 
with his piratical crew was roaming the seas and striking 
terror to many an island and seacoast city. But at this 
fourth and last attack during the long wars between 
France and England, the Islanders met the enemy "in an 
open pitched battle, and drove them off from the shore," 
no one in return receiving any injury, '^ except one man 
slightly wounded in his finger." Where that bloodless 
battle-field, on the part of the Islanders is, we are not 
informed. Probably it was in the vicinity of the old 

During the above period ol hostilities on Block Island, 
its inhabitants were not only plundered by privateers, and 
burdened wath the expenses of self defence, but heavy 
taxes came upon them from abroad. In response to their 
remonstrances the Rhode Island Assembly, in 1696, re- 
mitted to them ''one penny on the pound," of the levy 
on the Islanders. This was "penny wise." In 1700 the 
proportion of the colony tax of £800 allotted Block 
Island was £22, and this was remitted on the ground of 
the great expense they had borne in maintaining their 
soldiers. So great was the danger from deceitful visitors 


then, that the town passed the stringent law of fining a 
man five pounds for bringing ashore any man or woman 
from abroad without reporting the same to the town au- 
thorities immediately. Judge of the anxious days and 
sleepless nights during a period of twenty years, while 
threatened with a neighboring host of savages, while 
repeatedly invaded by privateers and pirates ; while con- 
stantly watching the surrounding waters, and maintaining 
laws that disarmed their superior numbers at sunset, and 
punished them for walking abroad after nine o'clock at 
night ; while burdened with the expense of maintaining 
their own little standing army, and also that upon the 
main-land ; and while, for their own support the fields 
must be cultivated, and material raised upon their farms 
for the distaff, the big spinning-wheel, and the loom. It 
was in reference to the above manifold burdens that in 
1697 the following memorial was indicted, probably by 
Simon R&j : 

"September the 5th, 1697. 
"7b the Honoured Governor^ Deputy Governor and the Rest of 

the Members of the General Assembly of Rhode Island 

and Providence Plantations : 

"The humble petition of the poor distressed Inhabitants 
of Block Island which expect daily No other than to be 
Invaded, our houses demolished, our persons and Estates 
become a prey to the enemy If no other assistance can be 
had than what we can Raise within ourselves. We both 
think and find it very hard that we should be forced to 
hire and pay men's wages at our own charge since we are 
or should be a member of a Colony that in our opinion 
ought to protect us who as yet have Not any from as a 
Colony we do suppose a thing not to be paralleled with In 
the King's Dominion that one part of a province or Col- 
ony that think themselves most secure should rather Re- 


ject than protect that part that Is In imminent danger. 
We your humble petitioners humbly consider the charge 
will be easier for a whole Colony to bare than a poor 
handful of distressed people which are always in fears, 
horrors, and troubles. We do suppose that one hundred 
and sixty pounds a year would supply w^ith men and am- 
unition which is but a little for a Colony to raise. We 
do suppose that as Justly as submission may be expected 
from us we may expect Relief in time of distress. We 
find that if we have money enough we may have men 
enough. If they cannot be spared in our own Colony 
we can be supplied otherwheres. Thus your distressed 
petitioners wait for your favorable and speedy result." 

(Signed by 30 freeholders.) 

To the foregoing piratical period in the history of 
Block Island the following case of kidnapping in 17] 7 
properly belongs. It is still involved in mystery. The 
occurrence is authenticated by the depositions of reli- 
able witnesses, and by the town record of the same, still 
preserved, of which we give here a copy: 

" Block Island ales New Shoram 
Aprelly^ 18th 1717. 
We the subscribers testifie and say that as we went on 
board of a large Sloop, Baulsgrave Williams Commander, 
as by some of his men's Report, and he Likewise being 
on shore to get some refreshment in order as he said to 
go to Boston on s"^ day aforementioned, we and severall 
others went on bord with him. after that we had been 
on bord of him about an houre or two (being then in our 
Harbour Bay) we all came out of s*^ Sloop into our Boat 
without any molestation ; but after that we were put off 
from the Sloop Some distance Rowing to make the Har- 
bour we were imediatly Comanded on bord again, not 
knowing what their business was with us ; as soon as we 
came along sid^ of the Sloop three of our men that were 
in our Boat with us were forcibly taken from us and com- 
manded to come on bord of them, one of which was 


pulled out of the boat into the Sloop by violence and the 
other two commanded to go on boarde of them. After 
this manner were those men taken from us (viz.) George 
Mitchell, William Toesh, and Doctur James Sweete ; and 
forthere Deponents say not. 

Thomas Daniels, 
John Rathbun, 
Thomas Pain. 

The three persons within personally apeared before me 
one of his majesty's Wardins or Justices of the peace 
of Block Island and took their Sollem Ingagements to 
the contents within mentioned as attest pr. me 

John Sands, Dep. Warden. 
May y« 19th, 1717. 

my Self being present on bord the boat when the men 
were taken out as within mentioned." 

The last-mentioned act of hostility justifies the pre- 
ceding and subsequent measures of defense adopted by 
the Islanders and assisted by the Colony of Rhode Island. 
In 1708 the Assembly, on condition the Islanders had 
truly laid out their due proportion of money for arms and 
ammunition, enacted that they should have a quota of 
fifteen soldiers for theii* defense, and that '' The Honored 
Governor, Assistant, and Major of the Island shall order 
said quota from time to time as they shall see cause, and 
to abate the number as they shall see cause for, and the 
men of Block Island to use said quota kindly, and find 
them with provisions (at their own charge), as is conven- 
ient for soldiers." In May 1711, a quota of twelve sol- 
diers was furnished the Island, they finding their own 
arms and ammunition, and receiving thirty shillings a 
month. In November of the samie year their pay was 
increased to forty shillings a month. But at this time 
they were, perhaps, less needful, as the notes of war 
began to die away, and soon after were only heard faintly 
echoing like far distant thunder from foreign shores. 
Nations hostile to England found it easier to fight her 


elsewhere than among the American Colonies. If the 
war of King George in 1744, and the conquest of the 
Canadas ten years after affected Block Island at all it 
was only as the spent shock of a far-off earthquake, 
leaving the inhabitants to pursue their peaceful avocations 
with very little interruption until the sad day arrived 
when the Colonists, by civil oppression, were compelled to 
turn their guns upon the government from which they 
had sought and obtained protection. Meanwhile, how- 
ever, lessons of self-government and of timely prepara- 
tions for defense had been learned, and, in the year 1740, 
we find the same put in practice by an act of the General 
Assembly of R. I., authorizing the field officers of Provi- 
dence, and Kings counties to impress from each ten able- 
bodied men to be sent to Block Island, by the 20th of 
April of that year, to serve there six months, to be under 
the care and command of the Captain of the Island [Capt. 
Edward Sands], and by him '^billeted out at the charge of 
the inhabitants of said Island," receiving £3 per month 
each from the general treasury. A battery, it seems by 
the following act of 1740, had been planted here pre- 
viously upon Harbor Hill^ nearly back of the gothic cot- 
tage of Mr. Darius Dodge, a suitable place for protecting 
the bay and harbor. This act was, '< That the six great 
guns at New Shoreham be mounted on carriages, in the 
most convenient manner, as shall be judged by the inhabi- 
tants ; and that they, at their own charge, procure two 
barrels of gunpowder, one hundred and twenty great shot 
and forty pounds weight of musket-balls ; and that Cap- 
tain Edward Sands, and Mr. Nathaniel Littlefield procure 
carriages for said guns, and draw money out of the gene- 
ral treasury to pay for the same.'' This was done with 
special reference to the war between Spain and England. 
In 1745 the Islanders petitioned the General Assembly 
for increased protection, and in response it was " Voted 


and resolved that twenty-one soldiers be sent to New 
Shoreham, seven out of each county * * and there 
to remain * * until the return of the Colony sloop 
from the expedition against Cape Breton, or till further 
order from the General Assembly." 

That Block Island, a little speck out in the sea, should 
take any active part in so great a struggle as that which 
began its premonitions in 1774 could hardly be expected. 
But as the pulse of the smallest artery beats in harmony 
with the greater — all being one organic system — so the 
energetic, public -spirited men of this Island in the latter 
part of the eighteenth century were ready to move in any 
direction with the organic body of American Colonies for 
the maintenance of their most cherished rights and privi- 
leges. The leading men here then, too, were known 
abroad, and esteemed for their personal excellences, and 
their patriotism and sacrifices in the hostihties of the 
Revolution were an honor to the Island. While the 
storm of war between the Colonies and the Mother Coun- 
try was gathering, the inhabitajats of Block Island, after 
having enjoyed "the sweets of civil and religious freedom 
for more than a century, and being in themselves a little 
model democracy, joined heart and hand with all Amer- 
ican patriots, as|they put upon record the following senti- 
ments relative to 

British Duties on Tea. 

" Proceedings of the People of New Shoreham, in Town 

Meeting y 

" At a town meeting held at New Shoreham, March 2, 
1774, John Sands, Esq., moderator. 

Whereas, there has been sent to this town a copy of 
the resolves ^entered into by the town of Newport, and a 


request to lay the same before this town, with a design 
that said town would unite with the other towns in this 
Colony in supporting their just rights and liberties : 

1. Therefore we the inhabitants of this town, being 
legally convened in town meeting, do firmly resolve, as 
the opinion of said town, that the Americans have as 
good a right to be as free a people as any upon the earth; 
and to enjoy at all times an uninterrupted possession of 
their rights and properties, 

2. That the act of the British Parliament, claiming 
the right to make laws binding upon the Colonies, in all 
cases whatsoever, is inconsistent with the natural, consti- 
tutional, and charter rights and privileges of the inhabi- 
tants of this Colony. 

3. That the express purpose for which the tax is levied 
on the Americans, namely, for the support of government, 
administration of justice, and defense of His Majesty's 
dominions in America, has a direct tendency to render 
Assemblies useless, and to introduce arbitrary government 
and slavery. 

4. That a tax on the inhabitants of America, without 
their consent, is a measure absolutely destructive of their 
freedom, tending to enslave and impoverish all who tamely 
submit to it. 

5. That the act allowing the East India Company to 
export tea to America, subject to a duty payable here, 
and the actual sending tea into the Colonies, by said Com- 
pany, is an open attempt to enforce the ministerial plan, 
and a violent attack upon the liberties of America. 

6. That it is the duty of every American to oppose 
this attempt. 

7. That whosoever shall, directly, or indirectly, coun- 
tenance this attempt, or in anywise aid or assist in run- 
ning, receiving, or unloading any such tea, or in piloting 
any vessel, having any such tea on board, while it remains 



subject to the payment of a duty here, is an enemy to his 

8. That we will heartily unite with our American 
brethren, in supporting the inhabitants of this Continent 
in all their just rights and privileges. 

9. That Joshua Sands, Caleb Littlefield, and John 
Sands, Esqs., and Messrs. Walter Rathbone, and Edward 
Sands, Jr., or the major part of them, be appointed a 
committee for this town, to correspond with all other com- 
mittees appointed by any town in this Colony ; and said 
committee is requested to give the closest attention to 
everything which concerns the hberties of America ; and 
if any tea, subject to a duty here, should be landed in 
this town, the committee is directed and empowered to 
call a town meeting, forthwith, that such measures may 
be taken as the public safety may require. 

10. And we return our hearty thanks to the town of 
Newport for their patriotic resolutions to maintain the 
liberties of their country ; and the prudent measures they 
have taken to induce the other towns in this Colony to 
come into the same generous resolutions. 


Town Clerk:' 

This was a bold measure for a little island, so far from 
adequate protection, to take. Without fortresses on the 
land ; without a man-of-war of their own ; without a cer- 
tainty that a single war sloop could be spared from the 
American navy for their protection ; with shores on 
which privateers could land their crews at any point ; 
and with a fresh recollection of the repeated pillaging of 
their homes by an enemy less formidable than the one 
now provoked, the brave Islanders, in the above resolu- 
tions, as nobly laid their property, their lives, and their 
sacred honor upon their country's altar as did the men 


whose names were appended to the Declaration of Inde- 

As the gathering storm-cloud darkened over the col- 
onies active measures were taken to remove from Block 
Island such resources as might tempt the enemy to assault 
the inhabitants ; as also might aid and comfort the enemy 
by falling into their hands, and as might by timely re- 
moval be saved, in value, to the Islanders, and also help 
the American army. Accordingly the General Assembly, 
in August, 1775, passed the following act : 

''It is voted and resolved that all the neat cattle and 
sheep upon New Shoreham, excepting a sufficiency for 
the inhabitants, be brought off as soon as possible, and 
landed upon the continent ; that two hundred and fifty 
men be sent upon that Island to secure the stock until it 
can be taken off." Thus military law was enforced. Ac- 
tive measures were at once taken to enlist one hundred 
and ninety men to assist in executing this transportation. 
James Rhodes was appointed commander of these men, 
and Gideon Hoxie, assistant. They, with George Shef- 
field, were empowered, at the expense of the colony, to 
remove, in the most prudent and effectual way, said stock 
to some place on the continent, the committee of safety 
supplying all necessary arms and provisions. The above- 
named Rhodes, Hoxie, and Sheffield were appointed to 
appraise the stock, which was transported at the expense 
and risk of the colony. Such stock as was suitable was 
to be sent immediately to the army. Such as was not fit 
for market was to be sold at public or private sale, unless 
the owners should choose to keep the same at their own 

The following account of stock taken from Block Island 
at the beginning of the Revolution is here given in full, 
for several reasons, chiefly to show who were here then, 
what stock they had, how great were their sacrifices for 



their country, and to indicate their feelings as they parted 
with their favorite cows, their working oxen, their cloth- 
producing sheep, and the lambs which in the preceding 
spring the children had tenderly nursed by their firesides, 
the familiar lowing and bleating of which stock were to 
be heard no longer. 

Sheep and Lambs taken hy the colony from Block Island^ 
September 2, 1775. 

Giles Pierce, 241 fat sheep and lambs, 
John Paine, 78 sheep, 

Walter Rathbone, 17 " 
Abel Franklin, 32 '' 

John Littlefield, 62 " 
Capt. John Sands, 150 '' 
Edward Sands, Jr., 20 " 
Joshua Sands, Esq., 5 '' 

Henry Willis, Jr., 



Samuel Rathbone, 



John Barber, 



Thomas Dickens. 



John Mott, 

2 lambs, 

Hezekiah Dodge, 


Benjamin Sheffield, 


Henry Littlefield, 


John Mitchell, 


Thomas Mitchell, 


Jeremiah Mitchell, 


John Littlefield, 


Capt. John Sands, 169 store sheep and 

John Littlefield, 148 sheep, 

John Barber, 175 " 

Thomas Mitchell, 27 " 

John Mitchell, 10 " 
































































£ s. d. 

Jonathan Mitchell, 10 s 

jheep, . . . 2 10 

Joseph Mitchell, 3 


George Franklin, 8 


Henry Littlefield, 5 

1 5 

Nath'l Littlefield, 12 


Edward Sands, Jr., 29 

7 5 

Joshua Sands, 4 


Ezekiel Sheffield, 14 

3 10 

Henry Willis, 2 


John Mott, 1 


Giles Pierce, 441 

110 5 

Abel FranMin, 28 


John Paine, 23 

5 15 

Walter Rathbone, 9 

2 5 

Nath'l Littlefield, Jr., 6 

1 10 

Henry Willis, Jr., 10 

2 10 

Tormut Rose, 6 

1 10 

Daniel Mott, 4 


Jeremiah Mitchell, 3 


Ezeziel Rose, 4 


Total sheep and lambs, 1,908 ; the Rhode Island col- 
ony allowed for them £534 95. M. 

We find no complete account of cows and oxen taken 
off. t 

In February, 1776, the General Assembly took meas- 
ures to completely strip Block Island of every thing that 
was not absolutely necessary for the existence of the 
people there, who were urged to use their utmost dihgence 
to comply with the decisions of Capt. John Sands, Joshua 
Sands, and William Littlefield, who were an authorized 
committee to determine what number of neat cattle and 
sheep should be left upon the Island, and to remove to 
the main all the stock ''not absolutely necessary for the 


use and consumption" of the Islanders. This committee 
were also authorized to collect the fire-arms on the Island 
and agree with the owners for the payment for the same, 
and also that all the warlike stores then on the Island be 
immediately removed thence and delivered to the Rhode 
Island Committee of Safety. 

Was not that a solemn time, when this lonely, isolated 
little spot was so completely divested of its former com- 
petence ? The policy adopted was much like that of 
befriending a banker by taking away his money to save 
him from being robbed. There was this compensating 
feature, however, in this case — there was a promise to 
pay the Islanders on the condition of victory and inde- 
pendence, and this condition was the talisman that re- 
vealed to the world the unsurpassed faith and patriotism 
of this miniature, insular democracy that had already 
without ostentation celebrated its centennial of freedom. 
Doubtless, however, there was much lamentation over the 
desolate condition of the Island, as it now appeared ten- 
fold more impoverished than it did after the repeated 
invasions of the French privateers. After the cattle and 
sheep were nearly all removed for the sustenance of the 
army, Edward Sands, Jr. was seen on the Island going 
from house to house numbering the people suggesting the 
thought that as the stock had gone to be slaughtered, so 
the able-bodied men would soon be chosen for the battle- 
field. Their condition was pitiable in the extreme. In- 
deed, what other portion of the colonies so remote from 
protection, or in any condition was required in the outset 
to give up so much for freedom ? Had they not retained 
their fish-lines and nets they might have been almost 
justified in saying to Liberty, "Lo, we have left all, and 
have followed thee." 

That the colony of Rhode Island meant to act wisely in 
stripping the Island, and felt tenderly towards its inhabi- 


tants, there can be no doubt, in view of all the circumstances. 
Not many months after, the Assembly put upon record 
expressions of sympathy and honest purpose. For doing 
so they had abundant reason. Every movement, almost, 
on the Island, was one of alarm. In August 1775, An- 
drew Waterman raised twenty -nine minute men who, with 
liim, were hastily dispatched to the Island. About the 
same time, while Joseph Dennison 2d and his company 
were transporting from there stock to the main, in the 
schooner Polly, all were taken by the enemy, making a 
bill of loss and service against the colony of £374, which 
was promptly paid. Soon, too, the soldiers enlisted in 
the spring for six months' service on the Island would 
finish the term specified, and the Governor was requested 
by the Assembly to consult with General "Washington as 
to his wishes concerning the forces on Block Island. At 
about the same time, also, charges of treachery were pre. 
ferred against one of the citizens, and for his reported 
betrayal and delivering up two seamen to a British man-of- 
war, Jonathan Hazard, Esq., was dispatched to Block Island 
with a sufficient military force to arrest one John Wright, 
and to look after " some other inhabitants of suspected poli- 
tical character," and to confine them in jail to be tried at 
the next session of the Assembly. To give the climax to 
this alarming movement Mr. Hazard was also instructed to 
"earnestly exhort the inhabitants of New Shoreham to 
remove off from the Island." This exhortation the Assem- 
bly seasoned in the following manner. In May, 1776, it 
apportioned to the various towns of the colony a quantity 
of salt — thirty bushels for Block Island ; but in the Sep- 
tember ensuing the Assembly " Voted and resolved that 
no part of the salt ordered to be distributed within this 
State, be delivered to the town of New Shoreham; but 
their proportion thereof be reserved for said inhabitants; 
to salt any provisions that may be brought from the said 


town to the main, there to be disposed of." There was 
one fable which, if the Block Islanders had ever read it, 
they then remembered — the fable of the Vulture and the 
Lamb. The lamb's bones were spared for the jaws of the 
lion. Such was the evening of the darkest day on Block 
Island. To the foregoing was added the following : 

'< Whereas, the inhabitants of New Shoreham, from 
their peculiar situation, are entirely in the power of the 
enemy, and very pernicious consequences may attend the 
intercourse of the said inhabitants with the continent, by 
means of the intelligence and supplies which the enemy 
may procure thereby: 

"It is therefore voted and resolved, that the said inhabi- 
tants be, and they are hereby prohibited from coming 
from said Island into any other part of this State, upon 
pain of being considered as enemies to the State, and of 
being imprisoned in the jail in the county where they may 
be found, there to remain until they shall be discharged 
by the General Assembly. And all officers, both civil and 
military, and every other person being an inhabitant of 
this State, is hereby directed and empowered to appre- 
hend all persons so offending, and to commit them, as 

"Provided, nevertheless, that this act shall not extend 
to any inhabitant of the said Island who shall remove 
from thence with his or her family, with an intention to 
settle in any other part of the United States. 

"It is further voted and resolved, that in case any per- 
son in this State shall be convicted of having any inter- 
course or correspondence with the persons so offending, 
he or she shall forfeit and pay as a fine, to the use of this 
State, £30, lawful money, to be recovered by the general 
treasurer, at the inferior court of common pleas, in the 
county where the offense shall be committed. 


"It is further resolved, that a copy of this act be 
inserted in the Newport Mercury and Providence Gazette." 

When the Islanders gathered around their evening 
firesides, and men, and women, and children read, or 
heard read this last act which virtually made them prison- 
ers of war, like Napoleon on St. Helena, and that, too, by 
their friends, leaving them in a worse condition than his, 
wholly unprotected, and dependent upon their own hands 
for food and clothing, with pastures and stables left 
vacant, it is not surprising if many a tear coursed the 
furrowed cheeks of age, if many a wrathful speech was 
uttered by younger men, if many a maiden's heart trem- 
bled for fear, and if all expressions of the Islanders 
settled down together into wailing notes kindred to those 
heard in the wilderness from those who mourned that they 
had not died in Egypt. But, as in the wilderness there 
were a few whose faith and heroism looked beyond the 
smoke and thunders of Sinai to the grapes of Eschol and to 
the land of milk and honey, and choose to go on, fearless 
of the sons of Anak, rather than go back to feed upon 
the leeks and garlics of bondage ; so on Block Island, 
when the heavy guns of war were booming near, and the 
clouds of God's providence thickened into darkness that 
could be felt, the faith and patriotism of the Sands, the 
Rays, the Rathbones, the Littlefields, the Dodges, and 
others of the Islanders saw the end from the beginning, 
and that end was Freedom, civil, and rehgious, and many 
lived to see the sight in reality, and to leave a posterity 
ever to be proud of their noble sires. 

The last act of the General Assembly, above-mentioned, 
prohibiting the Block Islanders from intercourse with the 
main-land, was too much — too stringent, and was amended 
soon after its enactment, and it is due to the Assembly to 
repeat the amendment in full, here : 

" This Assembly, deploring the unhappy situation of the 


inhabitants of New Shoreham, and willing to give them 
every relief in their power, and being also necessitated to 
provide for the general safety, 

"Do resolve, in addition to, and amendment of, the act 
passed at the last session, respecting the said Island, that 
the committee appointed in the said act may permit such 
of the inhabitants of the said Island as they can confide 
in, to go to Pawcatiick river, to procure at the mills there, 
such a quantity of meal as shall be necessary for the 
inhabitants of the said Island ; they taking the same and 
other necessaries on board, under the direction and with 
the written permission of George Sheffield and Phineas 
Clarke, or either of them, who are hereby directed to 
transmit to the said committee an account of all the arti- 
cles so taken on board for the said Island. 

''That the said committee be empowered to permit such 
inhabitants of the said Island as they can confide in, to 
proceed to any part of the colony, to transact the neces- 
sary business of the Island ; and that no other person 
belonging to the said Island, besides the deputies, shall 
go to any other part of the colony, excepting to Goat 
Island, in the township of Newport, upon the penalty of 
being committed to jail, as in the aforesaid act is directed." 

This was a great relief to the Islanders. It opened a 
few rents in the dark cloud, and let them see avenues, 
though narrow, to traffic and attainment of things need- 
ful for support and happiness. Before the close of 1V76, 
by an act of the assembly Messrs. John Sands, Edward 
Sands, Jr., and Simon Ray Littlefield were given " liberty 
to bring any provisions, hides, or other articles " from the 
Island, to any part of the state of Rhode Island, and to 
carry back to the Island leather, cloth, and necessaries in 
general for their own use, but their boatmen were speci- 
fied and restricted to be Godfrey Trim, and John Rose, 
Jr. In March, of the next year, 1777, an act was passed 


permitting the Islanders then on the main, who chose to 
do so, to return home under the inspection of the com- 
manding officer of the district ; and those on the Island 
had the permit to go off, but all this going and coming 
was to close by the 10th of the next month, April. 
Stephen Franklin, Jr., however, and his parents, after 
the 10th were allowed to return to the Island, having 
been unable, for good reasons to return before the 17th. 
In September, of 1777, the Islanders who had removed to 
the main, in consideration of the property they had sacri- 
ficed at home, "^in the beginning of this unnatural, cruel 
war ; " and of the service they had rendered against the 
enemy ; and in consideration of their having been " ex- 
cluded their proportions of flour and iron," were exempted 
from paying taxes. 

During the year 1778 things seem to have held about 
the even tenor of their way as through the year preced- 
ing. But in 1779 a thunderbolt fell upon Block Island 
with an alarming crash. 

The General Assembly, on information of illicit trade 
between the Island and the main ordered on the last 
Monday in February, 1779, the sheriff of King's County 
to "apprehend Waite Saunders, Thomas Carpenter, and 
Peleg Hoxie charged with having carried on an illicit 
commerce with the inhabitants of New Shoreham." He 
was also ordered to summon ''Wm. Gorton, Eobert 
Champlin, John Cross, Samuel Taylor, Simon Littlefield, 
John Sands, John Paine, Stephen Franklin, Edward 
Sands, and Robert Congdon to appear immediately before 
this assembly, upon the penalty of £150, lawful money 
each, for non-appearance." What the result of this ac- 
tion was we are not informed. Passing to and fro be- 
tween the Island and the main continued under close 
inspection, as in the cases of William Robinson, and Ben- 
jamin Sheffield, of Charlestown, going to Block Island to 


collect rents ; and of Edward Sands and his wife, John 
Sands, Simon Ray Littlefield, George Franklin, John 
Paine, John Littlefield, and Stephen Franklin, (probably 
returning home from the trial for illicit commerce) taking 
with them in their own boat, "plow-irons," "cart-wheels, 
two setts of cart-tire, three iron bars, a parcel of wooden 
household furniture ; " and of Thomas Dickens, bringing 
with him necessaries in general. In the meantime a vig- 
ilance committee were watchful of all intercourse to and 
from the Island. In May, of 1779, the town council of 
Westerly were ordered to seize a quantity of grain that 
Stephen Franklin, Jr., of Block Island, had left in the 
hands of Phinehas Clarke, of Westerly. By the return of 
Ray Sands, Edward Hull, and Nathan Gardner, Jr., to 
the Island to collect rents, in June, 1779, we learn that 
they were among the number who left the Island during 
the war. In August of this year the General Assembly 
passed an act from which it is most clearly seen how com- 
pletely the Islanders were abandoned to the cruel mercies 
of the enemy, cut off, as they then were, from the resour- 
ces of the main-land. We quote the preamble, and epit- 
omize the act : 

"Whereas, many evil minded persons, not regarding 
the ties of their allegiance to the United States in general, 
and this state in particular ; but influenced by the sordid 
principles of avarice, continue illicitly to correspond with 
and supply the inhabitants of New Shoreham, in the 
county of Newport, with provisions, and other articles, to 
the great detriment and distress of the virtuous inhabit- 
ants of this state. 

"And whereas, the said town of New Shoreham hath 
been for a long time, and still is, within the power and 
jurisdiction of the enemies of the United States, whereby 
they obtain, in consequence of the evil practices aforesaid, 
supplies for themselves, and intelligence from time to 


time of the situation of our troops, posts, and shores ;■ by 
which means they are enabled to make frequent incur- 
sions, and thereby commit devastations upon, and rob the 
innocent inhabitants of their property, and deprive them 
of their subsistence ; wherefore, 

"Be it enacted, &c." This act prohibited all trade 
with the Islanders of every description, except by special 
permits, upon the penalty of the confiscation to the state 
of all the property, personal and real, of the offender, 
and to this might be added the compulsory service in a 
continental battahon, or vessel of war, until peace should 
be declared ; or, if the offender were a female, or unfit 
for a soldier or a sailor, he or she was to be punished 

In September, 1779, John Rose, and Frederick Wyllis, 
of Block Island, were taken by an American privateer, 
on board a British vessel, were delivered to the sheriff ; 
he delivered them over to Col. Christopher Greene, and 
he passed them over to Maj. Gen. Gates to be treated as 
prisoners of war, or dismissed. In May, of the same 
year, the above-mentioned Stephen Franklin, Jr., of Block 
Island, was under arrest to be tried before the General 
Assembly, but instead of trying him at a civil tribunal he 
was handed over to Maj. Gen. Gates to be tried by him 
as a spy, the result of which we do not know. For the 
grain which he left in care of Phinehas Clarke, of "Wes- 
terly, in the preceding May, which w^as confiscated, the 
Assembly paid to his father, in Dec, 1779, £145 I6s. Od. 
The grain probably belonged to the father. In the latter 
part of this year much of the stringency was removed from 
the Islanders. The acts prohibiting their passing to and 
fro between the Island and the main were repealed, but 
all restrictions on transportation of provisions and mer- 
chandise were continued. This repeal was a source of 
much joy, for previously even Mrs. Lucy Sands was 


obliged to appear before Maj, Gen. Gates to obtain a per- 
mit to visit her family on the Island. Acts of courtesy- 
were interchanged. But even Governor William Greene, 
in Feb., 1780, had to comply with the rule requiring a 
permit to transport articles of exchange, as in the case of 
sending then six barrels of cider to Block Island for his 
brother-in-law, John Littlefield, Esq., and his family. 
That was more welcome than the messengers from the 
colony, in the July following, v/ho landed upon the Island 
with authority to take all the horses, cattle, grain, fish, 
and cheese as in their opinion could be spared by the 
inhabitants, and for the same to give certificates to the 
owners for future adjustment. These certificates, how- 
ever, were no better than receipts for a levy on the Island 
for supporting the war, unless the amount taken should 
prove to be more than a just proportion of a state tax, in 
which the surplus was to be credited on the next tax to 
be assessed. Thus the Islanders, besides the depredations 
from the British, denied traffic on the main, unrepresented 
in the General Assembly of Rhode Island, unprotected 
by the colony from the enemy, was burdened with a 
heavy tax. This was taxation without representation; 
nay more, it was the imposition of a heavy burden upon 
those cut off from the common privileges on the main and 
abandoned to the cruel mercies of the enemy. But even 
this their faith and patriotism could endure while patiently 
v/aiting for the dawn of freedom. 

In 1781, several permits to pass and repass between the 
Island and the main were granted, and occasional seizures 
of contraband articles and sales of the same by the sher- 
iff occurred. Goods, also, were transported to and fro, 
but under close inspection. 

In 1782, the " Refugees " were making considerable dis- 
turbance here. They threatened to destroy the property 
of Henry Champlin, seize his person, and carry him oS 


to New York, and therefore he was permitted to leave the 
Island and take his goods with him. For some misde- 
meanor, during the war, the estate of Ackurs Sisson here 
was confiscated to the State, and taken possession of by 
Mr. John Sands in behalf of the colony. 

At last the bright day seen by faith in 1776 was real- 
ized in May of 1783. The tempestuous, long night of 
the Revolution was over. The thunder of artillery died 
away, and the hail of musketry was felt no more by the 
heroes of freedom, and the rainbow of peace upon the 
receding cloud again arched the little ''Isle of the sea." 
Of what account to its patriotic inhabitants were the 
vexations and losses of the seven years of hostilities, since 
now they were under the banners of independent Ameri- 
can colonies ? There were glad hearts, music and dancing, 
psalms of praise to the God of freedom, and thanksgiving 
for victory and peace once more, as the messengers of the 
General Assembly read the good news to the Islanders, 
'• That all the rights, hberties, and privileges of the other 
citizens of this State be restored " to them, and that all 
restrictions of travel and traffic were removed. 

Of the personal experiences on the Island during the 
Revolution we can gain but little knowledge besides what 
is traditional. A few incidents from the memories of 
bright, aged people here who remember distinctly how, 
when they were young, their, parents told what they had 
seen, and heard, and experienced, are here given. 


Deserters and criminals, during the Revolution, found 
Block Island to be a convenient refuge. Once here, as 
communication with the main was so much restricted, they 
were not easily detected by the officers of justice. They 
were desperate characters from both armies, but mostly 
from the American, or from some nest of tories. They 


were a scourge to the Island, unprincipled and cruel in 
their demands. 

At a house a little east of Mr. Wm. P. Ball's residence, 
on his land where a beautiful spring is still flowing, and 
old quince and ornamental trees are yet standing, in the 
latter part of the war, one of those desperate refugees 
made his appearance. He was seen approaching at some 
distance by the watchful inmates, and the terrified hus- 
band, by the aid of his wife, .took refuge up stairs in a 
large pile of flax, where, at the risk of smothering, he 
was quickly concealed. The intruder made many saucy 
demands, one of which was : " "Where is your husband ?"' 
The woman answered sharply, " I hav'nt any ! " She had 
divorced him five minutes previous. One or two more 
inquiries aroused her indignation above all fear. He then 
demanded of her a knowledge of what she had in that 
chest in the corner, and threatened to break it open, 
whereupon she defied him to touch it, and springing for 
her scissors, with the pointed blade made ready to stab, 
she made for him exclaiming, " Get out of this house, 
you infernal villain, or I'll kill you with these scissors ! " 
Perhaps she was emboldened by Shakespeare's "quietus 
with a bodkin." The refugee considered retreat to be, 
in that case, the better part of valor, as no man can fight 
a woman. 

The substance of the above was told to Mrs. Margaret 
Dodge, now eighty-six years old, by her mother who re- 
membered well the incidents of the Revolution as they 
occurred on the Island. 

Mrs. John Sands, during the same period, while alone 
in her house, with her babe, saw a band of refugees 
coming to her door, and knowing their desperate charac- 
ter, laid down her babe, seized a gun and stood with it at 
the door ready to shoot the first that might attempt to 
enter and thus drove them away. 


They sometimes came from the main to the Island in 
sufficient force to row their light boats, called " Shaving 
Mills," with great rapidity, and thus they could capture a 
weaker craft, or escape one stronger. A galley with nine 
oarsmen, with such a boat, tradition says, came to the 
Island in a rough sea, for plunder. It approached the 
Old Harbor Point Landing, where the water has always 
been deep, and the rocks dangerous. The surf was dash- 
ing fearfully and the galley of refugees attempted to 
land, but were swamped and all drowned in the evening. 
It is said that while they were straining every muscle 
upon their oars, the Islanders on the beach heard a power- 
ful voice among them saying : ' ' Pull ! boys, pull for your 
lives ! " followed by the cries — "Help ! help ! " and for 
many years afterwards persons in that vicinity claimed to 
have heard the same command at night when no boat- 
men were there, and within the memory of the Hving, 
scores of men at a time have thus been deceived, and 
hence originated the "Harbor Boys," or ghosts of the 
Old Harbor Landing — ghosts of the strugghng refugees 
rowing for the shore. The frightful call of the Harbor 
Boys died away about the time the Palatine ship of fire 
sailed off to return no more to Block Island. The ghosts 
of the Harbor Boys were a fit crew for a phantom ship of 

The despicable character of the refugees of the Revo- 
lution is seen in the following statement of Mrs. Raymond 
Dickens of what she used to hear her grandmother, wife 
of Thomas Dickens, relate. 

The latter was a widow, and they came to her house 
and demanded her money. She told them she had none. 
They threatened to break open a chest to see. She 
opened it for them and let them see its contents. Satis- 
fied that she had no money, one seized her red silk hand- 
kerchief and carried it off. They seem to have been the 


offscouring of both armies and of the vilest inhabitants of 
the main-land. 

While here at one time, in a tavern, they stacked their 
guns in a room opposite the bar-room in which they were 
drinking, while one John Mitchell was asleep — supposed 
to be drunk — in the room with the guns. Unbeknown 
to the refugees he took the best one of their guns and 
put it up the old-fashioned chimney, and continued to be 
drunk, apparently, until after their searching was over, 
and they had left. Then the gun came down chimney 
and did good service for the Islanders many years since 
the memory of Seneca Sprague whose father for a long 
time was its owner. 

As a protection the Islanders kept a barrel of tar, or 
oil, on Harbor Hill (nearly back of the Beach House), and 
another on Beacon Hill, ready to be burned at night as a 
signal of approaching refugees. As soon as these were 
seen the shores of the Island were picketed, and doubtless 
in more than one instance the marauders got more than 
they came for. They generally came in the night. 

THE WAR OF 1812. 

During our last war with England, Block Island in the 
outset was proclaimed neutral. This proclamation was 
well known by the English commanders, and it was so 
constantly respected by them and their oflBcers that the 
inhabitants can hardly be said to have suffered on their 
account. Indeed, in some respects, they were a pecuniary 
benefit, for their men-of-war, frequently anchored in the 
bay, were a home-market for cattle, sheep, poultry, and 
supplies in general, and for 'these an adequate sum of 
specie was promptly paid. Not a murmur of complaint 
against English plunder, like that of the French here in 
1689-90, lingers upon the Island. It even makes one 
feel proud of his "mother country" to hear, sixty years 

THE WAR OF 1812. 107 

after that war, so many speak of the honorable bearing of 
the British officers on Block Island and in its surrounding 
waters. It is true the officers and soldiers took things 
with which the owners were unwilhng to part, but the 
invariable testimony is that an equivalent was always paid 
in gold or silver. Meanwhile, too, the Island was exempt 
from the taxes and service in the army to which those 
upon the main were subjected. They were at liberty also, 
as neutrals, to carry on trade with our own people in any 
of our ports, submitting, of course, to the inconvenience 
of being searched and examined in reference to English 
goods in their possession, and likewise of having their 
vessels hailed by the English ships. 

Captain Thomas Rose, the father of Mrs. Margaret 
Dodge, while coming towards the harbor, from the fishing- 
grounds, was about to pass an English man-of-war of 
seventy-four guns, when suddenly he heard the report of 
a cannon and saw a ball skipping on the water before his 
bow. He at once tacked, sailed up to her frowning broad- 
side and there held this little dialogue : " Who are you? " 
•' Thomas Rose of Block Island." "What is your busi- 
ness?" "I'm a fisherman." "What have you in your 
boat ? " " Necessaries for my family." " That's all — go on 
and good luck to you," and he bore away homeward again 
thankful for the honors maintained in war. 

One vessel of the enemy captured Nathaniel Dodge in 
a friendly way and resorted to various means to induce 
him to act as pilot for them in the Sound, but he evaded 
the service by feigning idiocy and insanity. 

Commodore Hardy, of the Briti^ navy, during the 
War of 1812, anchored in the bay his seventy -four gun 
ship, and was so friendly with the Islanders as to give 
them a dinner-party aboard his vessel, and many accepted 
his invitation. 

One principal object which the British vessels had in 


coming here was to obtain a supply of water. This they 
got mainly at Middle Pond, Chagum Pond, at the north 
end of the Island, and at Simmon's Pond, a small basin 
of fresh water then nearly in front of the harbor black- 
smith shop, but now filled up and nearly forgotten. 

A few relics of that war are still remaining upon the 
Island, such as a book of valuable reading in the posses- 
sion of Mr. William Dodge, thrown overboard from an 
English vessel between Block Island and Watch Hill, 
while hastily clearing itself for action. It floated, and 
was picked up by Mr. Dodge's father. A few old-fash- 
ioned horse-pistols were left by the soldiers, and are now 
occasionally used by the boys for shooting rats. 

Deacon Richard Steadman, an aged citizen, relates, in 
substance, the following incident of the War of 1812 : 
While a British man-of-war was lying near the Island 
several marines came ashore, went to the house (now 
owned and occupied by Mr. George Sheffield) of Mr. 
Ray Thomas Sands, and wanted to buy his pigs and tur- 
keys. He refused to sell them on any conditions. They 
threatened to take them nolens volens ; but he declared to 
them they should not have them. They told him if he said 
much more they would seize and carry him to Hahfax ! 
He dared them to do it. They then marched him to the 
shore, took him aboard the frigate, and handed him over 
to the commander, whereupon he was asked what he had 
to say for himself, and he replied : " G-ive me a bottle of 
liquor, and good keeping, for I am a neutral Block 
Islander." His demand was complied with for two or 
three days with good nature, and then he was returned to 
the shore and to his family. 

Mr. Samuel Ball remembers the following incidents : 
His father, in 1812, occupied the house now owned and 
occupied by the said Samuel. Then, during the war, two 
EngHsh vessels, the Poictiers^ a seventy -four gun ship, and 

THE WAR OF 1812. 109 

the Medstone, a war-sloop came to Block Island, and the 
commanders and their officers came ashore. "While view- 
ing the land they stopped at Mr. Ball's and called for 
dinner, courteously. The present Mr. Samuel Ball, then 
a little boy, went into the yard and picked them some 
flowers. His father, Samuel Ball, Sen., superintended 
dinner preparations, but the one commander and his offi- 
cers so much outranked the other and his officers that two 
tables had to be set, and in different rooms, and the two 
parties did not converse with each other. One of the 
commanders was probably a man of great distinction. 

Mr. Ball also says that the Island boys caught many 
little pond turtles and sold them to the British who took 
them on board their vessels for amusement, trimming them 
up in red ribbons, and marching them about their decks. 
Not even one of these turtles was taken by the English 
without payment. 

It is pleasant to hear the old people, without an excep- 
tion, now speak of the gentlemanly bearing of these 
British soldiers towards the men, women, and children of 
the Island in the War of 1812, and also to record the 
incidents, however simple, that commemorate such hu- 
mane behavior in times of hostility. ''Small things dis- 
cover great," says Bacon, which agrees well with what 
Aristotle said long before : "The nature of everything 
is best seen in its smallest portions." 

The aged Benjamin Sprague, now in his 89th year, well 
remembers the following incidents of the War of 1812. 
The first of the British vessels that then came to Block 
Island appeared on the fishing-grounds at the southward of 
the Island, and there hove to near the fishermen. They 
took John Clark aboard to pilot them to the Middle Pond. 
About a dozen boats well-filled with fish weighed anchor 
and followed the English vessels, which signaled the fish- 
ing boats to keep at a proper distance, until the heavy 


anchors were dropped opposite the Middle Pond. Then, 
as said Benjamin Sprague's boat was nearest, th6 Enghsh 
signaled him to come up, but to the rest to stay back. 
His little pole masts then came alongside the man-of-war 
and a few heads looked down, and one said, " How do 
you sell your fish?" ''Twenty cents apiece," replied 
Mr. Sprague, and an order quickly came back for a num. 
ber. "Please pass us down a bunch of yarn to tie them 
up," said Mr. Sprague. It was quickly furnished, and 
the first fish sold to the English by the Islanders was 
soon on deck of the man-of-war. "Please pass your 
money down as soon as you get your fish," said Mr. 
Sprague. This was done until the boat was emptied, and 
a second one signaled to come up as Mr. Sprague went 
away, reporting to the one he met, and the rest of his craft, 
the price estabhshed. They all sold out, and returned 
home, with cash in hand, to their families. 

During the War of 1812 the Island, in a measure, was 
subject to martial law. The inhabitants, as neutrals, 
were restrained by both American and English laws from 
favoring, in a hostile sense, either nation. Certain goods 
were contraband, and certain information might be fatal 
to the informant. The sale of runji to the English was 
punishable by them. Such sales were made, however, at 
considerable risk, and much profit. Mr. Sprague, the 
octogenarian, tells the following story: "I lived at the 
Harbor, and the English ships were by the Middle Pond. 
I said to my wife, — I am going to try my chances. So 
I got some chickens, ducks, beans, and a jug, and started 
for the ships. When I got down by the minister's lot, 
with my hands fuU, and things under my arms, all at once 
several English officers hove in sight on horseback, by 
George Sheffield's, with their bright gilded uniforms. 
My heart jumped right up into my throat, for I knew 
they would ask what I had in that jug, and they were 

THE WAR OF 1812. Ill 

soon up to me. They touched their hats, bowed, and 
halted. I nodded my head, for my hands were full. Said 
one, ' What have you to sell ? ' I answered, ' ducks, chick- 
ens, and beans.' Said he, ' What's in that jug ? ' I looked 
up in his face, and did not answer. He laughed, and 
said, ' I'll buy your ducks, chickens, and beans, and go 
on and let my steward have them, and let my men have 
a drink apiece, but don't let any of them get drunk." 
They went on and so did I. Now, said I, there's good 
sailing and I'll make a good voyage. So when I arrived 
at the Middle Pond the marines were on its east shore 
washing the ship's clothing. The steward paid me for 
my ducks, &c., and I told him about the rum, and he 
nodded assent. I then went near the marines, put up 
two fingers, and beckoned them to follow me. I went 
down by the bank, behind some willows, and two came. 
The rum was half water, and I sold each a pint for a 
dollar a pint ; after they went back, two more came, and 
so on until I sold all out to them at a dollar a pint. As 
it was then about noon they urged me to dine with them, 
and I did, and they had their English rum with their 
rations. They asked me to drink some, and I did. Then 
they asked me if I did not think their rum was better 
than mine. I told them yes, but did not tell them how 
much of mine was water." 


To those unacquainted witli the origin of the name 
Block Island it might seem to have been derived from its 
position as a stumhling-hloch in the pathway of vessels, and 
from the multitude of them wrecked upon its shores. 
All the facts concerning them would fill a volume full of 
interest. The few here given may be taken as an index 
to many other wrecks not mentioned. The one to which 
we give the most attention has received more notoriety, 
perhaps, than all others, and yet but very httle direct 
knowledge of it is attainable, and that knowledge is based 
only upon tradition, and that tradition has been the nucleus 
of so much speculation, poetic fancy, and superstition 
that the following is presented with some timidity, antici- 
pating as we do, quite opposite opinions from some things 
here said concei'ning 


This was the vessel whose supposed wreck upon Block 
Island Whittier has made the subject of a fine little poem 
entitled "TAe Palatine.'- That a vessel of this name was 
cast away upon this Island, or anchored here not long 
after its settlement, there is considerable circumstantial 
evidence. But this statement is contrary to the speculative 
theory that said vessel did not bear that name, but some 
other, the name Palatine originating from the Palatinates, 
or emigrants on her at the time she came ashore. But 
did ever a ship go to sea without a name ? Were sailors, 
as were the Islanders, ever known to call her by any name 


except her own ? Were a vessel from Turkey, laden with 
Turkish emigrants, to be wrecked on any New England 
island, if her name were Palatine, w^ould the inhabitants 
call her Turkey f And that too simply because she was 
from that country, while they could read her name which 
she carried ? No, Palatine was the name of the vessel. 
This is not only reasonable, but is also in harmony with 
traditional fact. Mr. Raymond Dickens, now aged seven- 
ty-five years, hale, and of clear memory, born on the 
Island, said only a few days since that when he was a boy 
he frequently heard his grandfather, Thomas Dickens, at 
about the age of eighty, speak of the shii) (not passen- 
gers) Palatine. These two had memories that carry us 
back to about 1736, and Simon Ray, one of the first set- 
tlers of the Island, was then living. He might have told 
Thomas Dickens about the Palatine, or others in the 
prime of Ufe, from whom Thomas Dickens got the infor- 
mation that he gave to his grandson, Raymond Dickens, 
who now communicates the same to us. By these, and 
similar links of tradition, we are enabled to authenticate 
the beginning of the chain of facts here presented. There 
was, then, a vessel by the name of Palatine, that came, 
many years ago, to the shores of Block Island. 

Poetic fiction has given to the public a very wrong view 
of this occurrence, and thus a wrong impression of the 
Islanders has been obtained. This criticism is not appH- 
cable to Mr. R. H. Dana's poem entitled the Buccaneer, 
for he had no reference in it to the Palatine. 

It is due to Mr. J. G. Whittier to give here his own 
explanation concerning his poem : 

''21st 10 mo. 1876. 
'• Dear Friend: 

"In regard to the poem Palatine, I can only say that I 
did not intend to misrepresent the facts of history. I 
wrote it after receiving a letter from Mr. Hazard, of 


Rhode Island, from whicli I certainly inferred that the 
ship was pillaged by the Islanders. He mentioned that 
one of the crew to save himself clung to the boat of the 
wreckers, who cut his hand off with a sword. It is very 
possible that my correspondent followed the current tra- 
dition on the main-land. * * * 

" Mr. Hazard is a gentleman of character and veracity, 
and I have no doubt he gave the version of the story as 

he had heard it." 

''Very Truly Thy Friend, 

John G. Whittier." 

Whittier's poem has these stanzas : 

" The ship that a hundred years before, 
Freighted deep with its goodly store, 
In the gales of the equinox went ashore. 

" The eager Islanders one by one 
Counted the shots of her signal-gun, . 
And heard the crash as she drove right on. 

" Into the teeth of death she sped ; 
(May God forgive the hands that fed 
The false lights over the Rocky Head ! )" 

" men and brothers ! What sights were there ! 
White upturned faces, hands stretched in prayer ! 
Where waves had pity, could ye not spare "? 

Down swooped the wreckers like birds of prey, 
Tearing the heart of the ship away. 
And the dead had never a word to say. 

" And there with a ghastly shimmer and shine, 
Over the rocks and the seething brine, 
They burned the wreck of the Palatine. 

" In their cruel hearts as they homeward sped, 
' The sea and the rocks are dumb,' they said, 
' There'll be no reckoning with the dead.' " 

All of this barbarous work is here charged upon a little 
population of as pure morals as ever adorned any part of 
Puritan New England. Let no one suppose that the poet 


•was aware of misrepresentation and injustice to the 
Islanders. He, like others, doubtless supposed that the 
piracy once common about Block Island was carried on 
by the inhabitants. But that was not the case. Pirates 
from abroad, near the beginning of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, infested the Island, and as they sallied forth from 
this point upon our own and foreign vessels they gave a 
reputation, probably, to the Island which in nowise 
belonged to the descendants of the Pilgrims. 

See the account of the capture of pirates from Block 
Island, and recovery of their money, in the case of the 
Bradish pirates, Colonial Hist, of N. Y., Vol. lY, p. 512. 
Also the account of the pirate vessels Ranger and Fortune 
headed for Block Island when captured by the Greyhound, 
1723, twenty-six of whose pirates were executed at New- 
port, on Gravelly Point, July 19, 1723. — R. I. Col. Rec, 
Vol. IV, p. 329 and 331. As late as 1740, the Rhode 
Island General Assembly voted an appropriation of £13 
135. "for victuals and drink to the pirates at Block Island, 
and their guards ;" and from the fact of keeping pirates 
as prisoners on the Island, many abroad doubtless heard 
frequent mention of " Block Island pirates," without dis- 
tinguishing them from the native citizens of the Island. 
But in all of these cases the pirates were foreigners to the 
Island, lodging there only temporarily. 

There is ample evidence of the strict laws of the 
Islanders, and of their rigid observance concerning 
w^recks, and of the voluntary humanity from them 
towards unfortunate sailors. It was probably according 
to the directions of the venerable Simon Ray, Chief War- 
den, as he was, and preacher of the gospel, or according 
to the wishes of his son, Simon Ray, Jr., that the deceased 
passengers of the Palatine w^ere taken the long distance 
from Sandy Point to his house, and afterward buried in 
a pleasant spot near his dwelling, in a decent manner, an 


example subsequently imitated within the memory of the 
oldest inhabitant nov\^ on the Island. 

The tender feelings entertained here for the sailor is 
indicated, by the town authorities in 1704. Then Capt. 
Edward Ball was Crown Officer on the Island. A sailor's 
body came ashore. Capt. Ball, by the authority of the 
Crown of England ordered Constable John Banning to 
summon a jury of inquest. After i' solemn " examination 
their verdict was : '•' We find no wounds that occasioned 
his death, but we conclude that the water hath been his 
end, or cause of his death." People who do thus are 
not such as set false lights, and murder shipwrecked 

So, in August 1755, about the supposed time of the wreck 
of the Palatine, the sloop Martha and Hojinah, Capt. Wil- 
liam Griffin, from Halifax to New York, was stranded on 
Block Island, and the captain was drowned while the 
crew, four in number, came ashore. At once a coroner's 
jury was summoned, the tjorpse was viewed, testimony was 
taken, and all was done that the best of civilized society 
could require of the Islanders. They were not pirates, 
poetic fiction " to the contrary notwithstanding," any 
more than the rats of the old stone mill and the charac- 
ters of Cooper's Red Rover v/ere realities belonging to 

By request, Mr. Charles E. Perry, an Islander and a 
gentleman whose scholarship and extensive research con- 
cerning the Palatine entitle him to a high degree of con- 
fidence, has prepared the following : 

" Memoranda of Facts and Traditions connected with 
The Palatine." 

" She came ashore on Sandy Point, the northern extrem- 
ity of Block Island, striking on the hummuck, at that 
time a httle peninsula connected with the Island by a nar- 


row neck of land. As the tide rose she floated off, and 
was towed into Breach Cove, near the Point, by the 
Islanders in their boats. The passengers were all landed, 
except one woman who refused to leave the wreck, and 
most of them were carried to the house of Edward Sands 
(who built and lived in the house now owned by John 
Revoe Paine, Esq.), and Simon Ray who owned a large 
part of the "West Side," and lived in a house near the 
one now owned and occupied by Raymond Dickens, Esq., 
a part of the timbers of the former being used in build- 
ing the latter. Many of these passengers, weakened by 
starvation and disease, soon died and were buried on a 
little spot west of the house of Wm. P. Lewis, Esq., and 
their graves, without a fence, or a name, though of late 
too closely approached by the plowshare, still remind us 
of the ship Palatine. 

" Some of the passengers, however, lived and left the 
Island, and one of them gave to the little daughter of 
Edward Sands, then twelve years old, a dress of India 
calico or chintz patches as the material was then called. 
This little girl was my grandmother's grandmother, and 
my grandmother has often heard her relate this incident. 
My grandmother's grandmother died in 1836 at the age 
of ninety-six, from which data (she being twelve years 
old when the ship came ashore), I conclude that she was 
wrecked about the year 1752. 

"One of these passengers, a woman, married a colored 
slave belonging to a Mr. Littlefield. Her name was Kate, 
and was commonly called Kattern. She was known as 
Long Kate to distinguish her from another who was then 
called Short Kate. The former had three children. Cradle, 
whose descendants have died or moved away; Mary, from 
whose descendants Jack, a colored man now in the employ- 
ment of Hon. Nicholas Ball, and remembered by many 


who have stopped at the Ocean View Hotel, has descended ; 
and Jenny, whose posterity have died and left the Island. 

^^ Letter from Charles Mueller, U.S. Consul at Amsterdam, 
dated July 4, 1870, states that the Custom House archives 
there have been searched, from the year 1602 to the year 
1799, and the records of the Dutch Trading Society from 
1700 to 1786, but no information was gained, although 
the record was found of a ship Palatine which was wrecked 
in the Bay of Bengal, July 14, 1784. 

'^Frederick Shutz, U. S. Consul at Rotterdam, in a letter 
dated Nov. 8, 1870, is also unable to give information, 
though the Custom House Records there were searched 
for a period embraced between 1736 and 1766; those from 
1738 to 1743 were missing. 

"J. Letter from R. H. Dana, Jr., states that his father's 
poem — The Buccaneer, was simply a work of imagina- 
tion, founded on no fact, and having no reference to the 

'' A Letter from J. G. Whittier states that his first hint 
of the story of its wreck came from James Hazard of 
Newport, that his knowledge on the subject is very 
limited, and that he has a plate said to have come from 
the Palatine. 

'' The gist of the traditional accounts of her seems to 
be, that she sailed from some German port, laden with 
well-to-do emigrants, bound to Philadelphia, that the cap- 
tain died or was killed on the passage, that the officers and 
crew starved and plundered the helpless emigrants, and 
finally, in their boats, abandoned the vessel which drifted 
ashore, as previously stated, during the week between 
Christmas and New Year's." 

"The ship was undoubtedly burned, with the woman 
left on board." — Charles E. Perry. 

In what manner, or why she was set on fire we can 
hardly conjecture. Her timbers and irons were too val- 


uable to the Islanders to be wasted. Where were the 
laws then for piracy ? Certain it is that the strict laws 
of the Island would have duly punished the known incen- 
diary, had he been a citizen. 

Mr. Benjamin SpRAauE's Recollections about the Pal- 

Although eighty-eight years old, Mr. Sprague does not 
seem to have any disease preying upon his constitution, 
and he talks of the scenes of his childhood and youth as 
though they were present, visible realities. He says he 
heard his parents say much about ''Dutch Kattern," as 
she was called, and that it was well understood by them 
that she came from the ship Palatine. He well knew 
Kattern's daughter Cradle, a mulatto, as Kattern married 
a negro, soon after she came upon the Island. Mr. 
Sprague, by remembering the character commonly as- 
cribed to '-' Dutch Kattern," enables us to gain some insight 
into the character of the traditions of the Palatine. He 
says she reported that the crew starved the passengers to 
get their money. He says she was a noted fortune-teller; 
that she would hide away behind a wall, or in a thicket 
of bushes, and there lie in a trance for hours. On return- 
ing to the house much exhausted, and being asked where 
she had been, she would reply that she had been home 
across the sea, to Holland, and then would give an ac- 
count of the condition of her kindred there as she had 
just seen them. She lived on the Neck, and was believed 
to be a witch. The Islanders were afraid of her. Mr. 
Sprague has no recollection of ever having heard any 
account of the hurning of the Palatine, nor do the other 
old people of the Island know any account of any such 
burning of the wreck. All they pretend that is known 
about a burning Palatine is contained in their notions of 
the Palatine Light. 


After more than two years of the best of opportunities 
to inquire into the legend of the Palatine, being on inti- 
mate and friendly terms with all of the most aged and 
reliable inhabitants of the Island, the writer is prepared 
to make a note of the following observations: 

That a ship named Palatine, about 130 years ago, came 
to Block Island, and left a considerable number of her 
passengers, who were in a diseased and dying condition: 
That these passengers received no treatment but kindness 
from the Islanders: That the Palatine was never burned 
by the Islanders, since to them every stick of its timbers, 
and every bolt were valuable; and especially since none 
can give any of the details of her burning: That she 
was never burned at all, but was wrecked in the Bay of 
Bengal, in July, 1784, according to the account in the 
records of the Dutch Trading Society, and reported by 
the American Consul, Charles Mueller, at Amsterdam in 
1870: That Dutch Kattern, one of the passengers, who 
was landed on Block Island, who married a negro slave, 
who got her living in part by fortune-telling, in those 
days of superstition, and who was feared as a witch by the 
Islanders, has received far too much credit for truthful- 
ness in reference to the Palatine legend: That neither the 
silence nor the words of the maniac, Mark Dodge, who, 
by good authority, is said to have burned the only wind- 
mill on the Island, is entitled to much weight in reference 
to this legend : That the Palatine Light in reality had no 
more relation to the ship Palatine than it had to Bunker 
Hill Monument, and that the superstitions, and fictitious 
relations of said ship and light originated in the days of 
the witch, ''Dutch Kattern," and of the "old opium- 
eater," as he was called, who occupied the house previ- 
ously owned and occupied by Simon Ray, Jr., the house 
so famous for ghosts and the dancing mortar, in the days 
of Dutch Kattern: That the fortune-teller and witch, 


Dutch Kattern ; the inveterate "opium-eater," of the 
haunted house ; and the maniac, Mark Dodge, are poor 
authority for authenticating a legend that criminates a 
civil, Christianized community, and reduces them to a 
level with barbarians and pirates: That, as widely as the 
report has been circulated that Mr. R. EL. Dana referred 
to the Palatine, in his "Buccaneer;" and that as far as 
Mr. J. G. Whittier, in his "Palatine," has made the false 
impression that the Islanders, by false lights, wrecked 
said ship, murdered its passengers and crew, robbed and 
burned it, so far and wide said report and impression 
should be contradicted. For the prince of showmen to 
"humbug" the lovers of deception; or for a poet to 
clothe up an ordinary fact in startling garbs of fiction ; or 
to call an ancient fur- trader's castle a "stone mill," may 
be tolerated; but the representing of an entire commun- 
ity of law-abiding Christian people as barbarians and 
pirates, and that too, on the testimony of a witch, an opium- 
eater, and a maniac, is intolerable. 

Take, then, from the legend of the Palatine, ivitchcraft, 
opium reveries, insanity, and superstition, and we have left 
a Dutch trading ship, stopping at Block Island to leave 
diseased passengers, among whom was the low-bred 
"Dutch Kattern;" we find also at that time the same 
minds that invested the Ray house with ghosts and a 
dancing mortar, amply furnished with the materials for 
rigging the light off Sandy Point with masts, ropes, and 
sails, and for giving it a cargo of lies to feed the fancies 
of poets, and the phantom-chasers of posterity. Dutch 
Kattern had her revenge on the ship that put her ashore 
by imagining it on fire, and telling others, probably, that 
the light on the sound was the wicked ship Palatine, 
cursed for leaving her on Block Island. 

There is some evidence that the Dutch trading-ship, 
Palatine, was on her way from the West Indies, home- 


ward, at the time of leaving her diseased passengers on 
Block Island ; for she left Lignum-vitce, which still remains 
among the inhabitants. It was left in the rough, in logs, 
and in the absence of mills the Islanders made mortars 
of sections of that tough, hard wood. The octogenarian, 
B. Sprague, says they were made by boring the top of 
the block full of auger holes, over which a heated cannon 
ball was placed to burn out the desired cavity. A few of 
these mortars still on the Island are all known as from the 
Palatine. They have done good service in furnishing 
meal for the primitive inhabitants, and if Block Island 
should, in future, produce an abundant crop of relics 
from the Palatine to compete with the thousands of spokes 
from the wheels of Washington's wagon, the crop would 
probably be inadequate to the hungry demand, 


To this superstition, poetry, and speculation have given 
notoriety. This light, whatever it may be, whether a 
superstitious figment of the imagination, or an unaccount- 
able reality, as a legend handed down from generation to 
generation, and always believed by many to be true, is 
certainly a phenomenon. Those whom we hear speak of 
having seen it at the present day have been persons more 
competent to believe in the marvelous than to read and 
write. Not many months since such an Islander was 
heard to speak very solemnly of having seen the Palatine 
Light off on the Sound. His more intelligent neighbors, 
though knowing him to be a man of candor and veracity, 
expressed their opinions by a smile of incredulity. And 
yet, the concurrent testimony of so many, not only upon 
the Island, but also upon the opposite main-land, is so 
strong that a strange light off Sandy Point, in different 
parts of the Sound, has been seen from time to time, re- 
sembling a burning ship, that no one feels quite ready to 


pronounce it all a myth. The convictions of many con- 
cerning it are so truthfully expressed by Whittier that 
his stanzas are here inserted : " 

" Nor looks nor tones a doubt betray, 
' If is known to us all,' they quietly say; 
' We too have seen it in our day.' 

" For still, on many a moonless night, 
From Kingston Head and from Montauk Light, 
The specter kindles and burns in sight. 

" Now low and dim, noAv clear and higher, 
Leaps up the terrible Ghost of Fire ; 
Then slowly sinking the flames expire. 

" And the wise Sound skippers, though skies be fine, 
Eeef their sails when they see the sign 
Of the blazing wreck of the Palatine." 

That a phenomenal light at different times and places 
in the Sound in sight of the Island has appeared during 
the last century is quite certain, and superstition has asso- 
ciated it with the Palatine. That an inflammable gas 
should rise through the water and burn upon its surface 
is not impossible, as in the case of burning springs and 
brooks. This light, as long ago as 1811, attracted the 
attention of men of standing. Dr. Aaron C. Willey, for 
a number of years an inhabitant of the Island, and well- 
known abroad, addressed the following letter to Dr. Sam- 
uel Mitchell then living in New York City : 

''Block Island, Dec. 10, 1811. 
" Dear Sir : In a former letter I promised to give you 
an account of the singular light which is sometimes seen 
from this place. I now hasten to fulfill my agreement. 
I should long since have communicated the fact to the 
literary world, but was unwilling to depend wholly upon 
the information of others, when by a little delay there 
was a probability of my receiving ocular demonstration. 
I have not, howeverj been fortunate in this respect, as I 


could wish, having had only two opportunities of witness- 
ing this phenomenon. My residing nearly six miles from 
the shore which lies next to the region of its exhibition, 
and behind elevated ground, has prevented me from see- 
ing it so frequently, perhaps, as I might otherwise have 
done. The people who have always lived here are so 
familiarized to the sight that they never think of giving 
notice to those who do not happen to be present, or even 
of mentioning it afterwards, unless they hear some parti- 
cular inquiries made. 

''This curious irradiative rises from the ocean near the 
northern point of the Island. Its appearance is nothing 
different from a blaze of fire. Whether it actually 
touches the water, or merely hovers over it, is uncertain, 
for I am informed that no person has been near enough 
to decide accurately. It beams with various magnitudes, 
and appears to bear no more analogy to the ignis fatuus 
than it does to the aurora borealis. Sometimes it is small, 
resembling the light through a distant window, at others 
expanding to the highness of a ship with all her canvas 
spread. When large it displays a pyramidical form, or 
three constant streams. In the latter case the streams 
are somewhat blended together at the bottom, but sepa- 
rate and distinct at the top, while the middle one rises 
higher than the other two. It may have the same appear- 
ance when small, but owing to distance and surrounding 
vapors cannot be clearly perceived. The light often seems 
to be in a constant state of insulation, descending by 
degrees until it becomes invisible, or resembles a lurid 
point, then shining anew, sometimes with a sudden blaze, 
at others by a gradual incr easement to its former size. 
Often the instability regards the luster only, becoming 
less and less bright until it disappeai'S, or nothing but a 
pale outline can be discerned of its full size, then return- 
ing its former splendor in the manner before related. 


The duration of its greatest and least state of illumina- 
tion is not commonly more than two or three minutes. 
This inconstancy, however, does not appear in every 

"After the radiance seems to be totally extinct it does 
not always return in the same place, but is not unfre- 
quently seen shining at some considerable distance from 
where it disappeared. In this transfer of locality it 
seems to have no certain line of direction. When most 
expanded this blaze is generally wavering like the flame 
of a torch; at one time it appears stationary, at another 
progressive. It is seen at all seasons of the year, and for 
the most part in the calm weather which precedes an east- 
erly or southerly storm. It has, however, been noticed 
during a severe northwestern gale, and when no storm 
immediately followed. Its continuance is sometimes but 
transient, at others throughout the night, and it has been 
known to appear several nights in succession. 

" This blaze actually emits luminous rays. A gentleman 
whose house is situated near the sea, informs me that he 
has known it to illuminate considerably the walls of his 
room through the windows. This happens only when the 
light is within a half a mile of the shore, for it is often 
seen blazing at six or seven miles distant, and strangers 
suppose it to be a vessel on fire." 

Dr. Willey, in the same letter, states that when he saw 
it in the evening of February, 1810, and in the evening 
of December 20th following, the appearances were essen- 
tially those above described Of the notion of its con- 
nection with the Palatine, he adds : " From this time, it 
is said, the Palatine light appeared, and there are many who 
firmly believe it to be a ship of fire, to which their fan- 
tastic and distempered imaginations figure masts, ropes, 
and flowing sails. 

" I have stated facts to you, but feel a reluctance to 


hazard any speculations. These I leave to you and other 
acute researchers of created things. Your opinion I 
would be much pleased with. 

" With the highest feelings of respect, 

(Signed) AARON C. WILLEY." 

Hon. S. L. Mitchell. 


The Mars. 

An English Merchantman, in 1781, was pursued by our 
war vessel, in the Revolution, was stranded on Block 
Island, and captured as a prize, and her goods were seized 
to be sold by the sheriff of Kent County, R. I., to pay 
for keeping in prison " Dennis Byrne and his woman-ser- 
vant, who were taken in the said ship, unless the owners 
or captors discharge the said debt." 

The Ann Hope. 

A large East Ind iaman, laden with spices and merchan- 
dise, came ashore in the night, in a snow-storm, on the 
south end of the Island, about the year 1806. Her cap- 
tain's name was Lang. Several of the crew were drowned, 
and their bodies were found and buried in view of the 
wreck. When she was discovered in the morning by the 
Islanders her upper deck, on which were several cannon, 
then used to fight pirates, had floated away a quarter of a 
mile. One man's body came ashore and the citizens were 
endeavoring to resuscitate him when another was seen 
struggling in the surf, and one of those working over the 
apparently drowned man mentioned, said : " Let us try 
to save that one out there in the water, for this man is as 
good as dead," whereupon the latter exclaimed, "Na! 
indade, I'm as good as a half a dozen dead men !" Seve- 
ral of the crew were saved, but the ship and cargo were a 


total loss. The Islanders saved a few bags of coffee, and 
some other things before all was carried away by the tide. 

Wreck of The Warrior. 

She was a large two-mast schooner, distinctly remem- 
bered by several of the oldest Islanders. She carried 
goods and passengers between Boston and New York. 
The wind was blowing a heavy gale, the sound was white, 
and two seas were meeting on the bar at Sandy Point, 
and there dashing their waves against each other in such 
fearful conflict as no pen can describe. Upon that bar by 
the fury of that gale she was driven. The Islanders 
hastened to the shore to render assistance to the perishing. 
The following account of the scene is from an eye-witness, 
Mr. Benjamin T. Coe, then the Inspector of Customs at 
New Shoreham. His letter was addressed to John C. 
Morrison, Esq., of New York. 

"New Shoreham, April 27, 1831. 

"Dear Sir: — Yours of the 19th has come to hand 
this day. There were no goods saved from the Warrior, 
of the description you mentioned. 

"It is impossible to describe the awful situation of that 
vessel when she first came on shore, the sea breaking over 
her masts, and seven souls hanging to the rigging, not 
more than one hundred and fifty yards from us, and com- 
pletely out of the power ""of man to render them any 
assistance — the vessel striking so hard as to drive her 
bottom up, both masts unstepped, and fell, at the same 
time ripped up her main deck and the goods immediately 
washed out of her and drove away to the eastward. Some 
cotton and calico drove ashore here, one sack of hides, 
something like forty dozen carpenters rules, &c. What 
goods were saved I delivered to Mr. Charles Brown, the 
agent from Boston, and Mr. Charles M. Thurston, of 
Newport, to whom I must refer you. 


" I am informed there were thirty tons of iron in the 
bottom of the vessel, which is, I think, now buried up 
with sand, as there has been no part of said bottom seen 
about the Island. When the weather grows warmer I 
intend to make an examination for the bottom of the 
vessel. It may be the case that some heavy articles can 
be found. If any thing of the kind you mention should 
be found I will give you the earliest information in my 
power. Our insulated situation renders it very difficult — 
we have no chance of writing, only when our boats go 
off, and that is not frequent. 

Your Ob't Servant, 

Benjamin T. Coe." 

Other witnesses tell essentially the same story, with 
some additional particulars. One describes the bar from 
the shore to the ship as sometimes nearly naked between 
the heavy seas passing over it from the westward. He 
says that one of the sailors, larger and more resolute than 
the rest, used great exertion to keep them from becoming 
benumbed by the 'cold, by keeping them active. As he 
saw no hope of assistance from the hundreds on the 
shore he made the desperate effort of running on the 
sand bar to the land between seas, but when a little more 
than half way he saw a high wave driven with great 
violence coming upon him, he bravely turned and met it 
head foremost, and soon after was picked up dead upon 
the beach. Others on the wreck lashed themselves to the 
deck, and, after the storm, were taken off by the Island- 
ers, all dead and blackened by the bruises received from 
debris. That was a solemn day when the citizens looked 
upon the seven corpses laid upon the green bank, not far 
from the wreck. Captain Scudder, all of his crew, and 
passengers finished life's journey together in that worst 
of places for a vessel, in a gale. 


Mr. Amhad Dodge, who well remembers the awful 
scene, says his father helped to make such coffins for those 
unfortunate sailors as were made for respectable citizens, 
and the bodies were decently laid out, and rehgious ser- 
vices were held at their burial. Their seven graves may 
now be seen in the northwest corner of the Island cem- 
etery. Capt. Scudder and his mate, it is said, have been 
removed by their friends, who expressed a happy surprise 
in finding the dead so decently buried by the hands of 

The total number of lives lost on the Warrior was 
probably twenty-one. The bodies of seven men and a 
colored woman Were rescued, while the rest floated away 
as did the goods and pieces of the wreck into the ocean. 
Mr. Anthony Littlefield, whose house was near the disas- 
ter, says that not long after the wreck he was in Boston 
and heard a man say that he was on board the Warrior 
just before she sailed, and that she then had in all twenty- 
one — eighteen men, two women, and a colored servant. 
Mrs. Anthony Littlefield laid out the body of the colored 
woman, w^ho was buried near Sandy Point, and all the 
other bodies were taken to the house of her husband. 

This fearful wreck was the result of carelessness, as is 
supposed, on the part of the watch. She, with two 
others, becalmed the previous evening, anchored at the 
westward of Sandy Point, upon which she was driven in 
the morning. The other two vessels, one of them being 
the smack Luna, escaped from their dangerous position. 

Mr. Weeden Gorton says he saw men jump overboard 
like sheep while the Warrior was going to pieces. 

The Jasper 
Was a schooner bound from Boston to New York, 
laden with cut stone, in 1839. She came ashore on the 
east side of the Island, and was got off, considerably dam- 


aged, throwing her cargo overboard. Some of the stones 
were rescued from the deep by the Islanders, and may 
now be seen at their houses, used as steps. One at the 
Spring House, and another at the residence of Mr. Lo- 
renzo Littlefield, and others at the Central House, have 
attracted attention by their size and beauty. Another 
vessel, laden with cut stone, was wrecked on the east beach. 

The Palmetto, Capt Baker^ 

Was a large steamer, the only one totally wrecked near, 
or on the Island. In the year 1857, bound from Phila- 
delphia to Boston, she came near enough to strike a 
concealed rock, known as Black Rock. The Captain 
attempted, then, to run her ashore in the dense rain and 
fog, but she filled so rapidly that he took the crew and 
passengers into life boats and piloted them around from 
the south end of the Island to the harbor, while she and 
a valuable cargo sank to the bottom, in seven fathoms of 
water. She soon went to pieces, and her merchandise 
for weeks was seen floating in fragments about the shore. 
One citizen still has some of the sole leather which he 
rescued, more than he is likely to wear out. 

The Moluncus, 

A brig, came ashore on Grace's Point, west side of the 
Island, in the year 1855, laden with molasses. At that 
time a Wrecking Company here was in readiness to do 
good service. A very severe storm drove her ashore. 
She was soon boarded, in the evening, for a contract to 
get her off. As she was so fast aground, the Captain, 
crew, and Islanders all left her, and came ashore to the 
house of Robert C. Dunn, where they were more comfort- 
able. There they bantered considerable time about the 
price of getting her off, and into port. At last the agree- 
ment was made, the condition being $2,500. The con- 


tract was drawn and signed by both parties, eacb taking 
a copy. By this time it was quite dark, and the wind 
was blowing a gale. But the Island wreckers undertook 
to examine the brig as far as possible to decide upon the 
gear necessary to get her off, and accordingly went out to 
see her, when, to their great astonishment, they could see 
nothing of her — she was gone 1 Here was a case to try 
their metal, as sailors and wreckers. The furious waves 
were coming towards them and madly breaking at their 
feet. These were accompanied with winds howling fear- 
fully, and over all brooded thick darkness. Rain was 
falling in torrents, and the wind moved an Island *barn 
from its foundations. They had neither light nor com- 
pass, and only a frail surf -boat with which to venture 
upon such a sea. Yet, without parley, with a reckless 
daring unexcelled, the more venturesome of the wreckers 
seized their boat, shoved it into the water, and one after 
another leaped in and pushed off, until Capt. N. L. Willis, 
Frank Willis, Sylvanus Willis, (brothers,) Simon Ball, 
Wm. P. Ball, Silas Mott, S. R. Allen, Luther Dickins, 
and Thomas Rathbone, were fairly launched, and out at 
sea looking in almost pitch-black darkness for the lost 
brig. Soon they were far from the Island, tossed here 
and there, not knowing to what point they might be 
driven by the wind and tide. The direction of the wind 
was their only guide. All- eyes were strained for the 
faintest outlines of a vessel, but none could be seen. An 
occasional thought of their own danger would now and 
then flash across their minds and intensify their anxiety. 
Were they not earning their money, in case they should 
find her, and should ever come ashore again ? Were there 
not anxious hearts then upon the Island ? At last, through 
the spray and darkness something like a shadow of a ship 
was seen. '^ Steady, boys ! haul steady to the wind'ard 
for your lives!" said the Captain, in an old "sea-dog" 


tone that meant what sailors alone can fully understand. 

Soon all hearts grew light, and the oars were pulled with 

such a force as they had never felt from human hands 

before. "Words were few, as all approached the brig, 

miles away from the Island, rocking in the deep troughs, 

with her tall masts almost lying flat upon the sea first on 

one side and then on the other. 

How could she then be boarded ? Her lee side was 

carefully approached, and as it came to the water's edge, 

the little boat was there, a sailor leaped upon the brig's 

gunnel, and hove a line back to his comrades, who then 

came kstern, went aboard, hoisted sail, and next morning 

were in Newport, where their well-earned $2,500 in gold 

were laid before them, but by unfortunate advice they 

declined to accept it, claimed salvage, spent about $1,000 

in a law suit, and at last took the money stipulated in the 


Mary Augusta. 

A schooner, Capt. J. W. Holt, of Ellsworth, Me., laden 
with two hundred and seventy- three tons of coal for 
Somerset, Mass., in a severe storm on the 4th of April, 
1876, was driven upon the shore near Sandy Hill, at nine 
o'clock p. M. '^ As she struck she inclined slightly sea- 
ward, so that the waves broke over her deck. The men 
sprung aloft, and there for seven hours clung to the rig- 
ging, a storm of snow and rain beating upon them, and 
the cold waves sweeping white below. They were seen in 
the morning, and a boat manned by Messrs. Edward Hayes, 
John Dunn, Augustine Dunn, and Edward Sprague suc- 
ceeded in bringing them ashore in safety. There were four 
men and the captain. They had not slept for two nights, 
and were almost exhausted. They went to the house of 
Edward Champlin near by where they found the comforts 
of home." Her cargo was taken out, and she was got 
off, and taken to Newport. 

modern wrecks. 133 

The "Mays." 

The singular coincidences occurred on this Island of 
two schooners of the same name, ''May," in the month of 
May, 1876, from the same port at the same date, of the 
same destination, coming ashore on the same day, the 21st, 
and at nearly the same point, the southwest part of the 
Island, one at 7.30 p. m., and the other at 8.00 p. m. The 
first, the Catherine May, a two-mast schooner, Capt. Davis, 
was got off on the 24th by the Old Wrecking Company 
of the Island, and taken to Newport for $2,000 ; and the 
second, the Henry J. May, a three-mast schooner, Capt E. 
E. Blackman, was got off on the 2 2d, by the same com.- 
pany, badly damaged, and taken to Fall River by two 
steamers, for $3,000. These, like many others, would 
have been a total loss had it not been for the immediate 
action of the Island wreckers. 

The multitude of wrecks upon the Island is indicated 
by the following facts : In about the year 1850, in Sep- 
tember, six vessels came ashore in one day. About the 
year 1846, the same number came ashore the same day in 
June. A catalogue of all grounded here during the past 
century, would doubtless approach, or perhaps, exceed a 
thousand in number. Many of these were got off unin- 
jured, or but little damaged. Steamers have grounded 
here many times without serious disaster. 

It is ascertained that during fourteen years, from 1854 
to 1868, the loss of property by wrecks on the Island 
amounted to the sum of $378,000. A visitor here can 
hardly turn his eyes without having in sight pieces of 
wrecked vessels, used for posts in fences, gates, and for 
hitching horses, and in buildings. Nearly all the harrows 
of the Island have teeth made of ship-bolts. The posts 
of a long piece of fence near Sandy Point are from the 
timbers of vessels. 



Wm. P. Lewis, Esq., Secretary of the "Old Protection 
Wrecking Company of Block Island," furnislies the fol- 
lowing facts. During the last seventeen years it got off 
from the shores of said Island and Point Judith, twenty- 
one schooners, five barks, and three brigs. The amount 
of property thus saved has been equal to about one mil- 
lion and two hundred thousand dollars, besides those 
vessels saved by the New Wrecking Company. During 
these seventeen years five schooners were lost on the 
Island, valued at $120,000. Previous to the organization 
of said Old Company the vessels lost and stranded on the 
Island far exceeded, during the preceding seventeen years, 
those saved during the last seventeen years. 

The wreckers take all the risk of losing their property, 
their lives, and failing to get their wreck into port, in 
which case they receive no pay. Once the Old Company 
raised a wreck, put all pumps to work, and raised water 
through the hold by pulleys, and started for New London, 
towing the hulk with a little tug. A short distance from 
the Island they were struck by a sudden, fearful storm, 
and the seas rolled and pitched wreck and tug so that all 
on board expected to perish. They weathered the gale by 
keeping the fire of the tug from extinction. 

The Old and the New Wrecking Companies here have 
done much to save life and property. The Old Company 
existed several years without a competitor, and while they 
received none too much for the risk and expense they 
incurred, their receipts were considerable. The New 
Company was organized a few years ago with a desire to 
share more largely in those receipts. The two Companies, 
however, "threw together," and shared equally for the 
removal of wrecks until the spring of 1876, when it was 
found best to separate entirely. Each company is amply 
furnished with empty casks for raising, and "gear "for 


hauling off; but their dangerous work is likely to be 
greatly diminished in future by the additional light-house 
recently erected, by the fog-signal here, and also by the 
greater familiarity with the Island obtained by vessels 
that now come here for the protection of the new govern- 
ment harbor. 

The following account is given as a specimen of Block 
Island wrecking. 


The Laura E. Messer. 

The Laura E. Messer, a three-masted schooner, of 700 
tons burthen, Capt. J. F. Gregory, from Newport to Balti- 
more, in the early part of the winter of 1874-5, ran upon 
Sandy Point in a fair wind and not very dark night. She 
had a light cargo, a few hundred barrels of apples, and 
the delay in getting her off allowed the \\ind and tide to 
drive her high up on the bar, so that a high tide and 
strong wind were necessary to get her off again, making 
the work very dangerous, as at that point the heavy seas 
come up from the east and west sides of the Island and 
meet in fearful conflict over the bar on which she was 
lying, dashing each other into spray and billows in which 
the older Islanders have seen terrible sights of perishing 
men pleading for help when none could possibly be ren- 

With such danger before them two wrecking companies 
here, Christian men, bargained with the captain to get her 
off, and as many are not familiar with the skill and 
courage necessary in dangerous wrecking the following 
particulars are given. 

To take this vessel from her bed in the sand required 
such a power as no large steamer could apply; it must be 
un^aelding, and it was expected to be against strong wind 
and tide. For that power needed to be applied hourly for 
perhaps weeks or months in order to be constantly ready 


for the favorable storm and tide combined. Thus it was 
arranged, and the men were ready, their gear consisting 
of immense hawsers, smaller ropes, blocks, anchors, etc. 
An ingenious network of ropes over the deck, fastened to 
stanchions, masts, and windlass, distributed all the power 
to all parts of her, and also concentrated it all on two 
great hawsers that led from the bow to the anchors out in 
the ocean, one of them extending out 2,100 feet. To this 
were attached three heavy anchors at proper distances 
from each other. The other hawser ran out parallel with 
the first, 960 feet, and to this was added a chain 450 feet 
long, making a cable 1,410 feet in length, and to this were 
attached two heavy anchors. One of these five anchors 
was sufficient to hold a ship in an ordinary storm, but they 
all had a power applied to them that at times would move 
them. This was done by means of the windlass and pul- 
leys on the deck — "The best windlass," the old captains 
said, "that they had ever seen." 

Trim and beautiful, with her tall, perpendicular masts, 
there she sat upon the beach "high and dry," and every 
timber groaning in sympathy under the terrible strain. 
Moons waxed and waned, tides rose and fell, storms from 
the wrong direction came and went, and only a little gain 
was secured by wheeling her bow towards the deep. 
Almanacs were consulted for moons and tides, and as the 
highest tide came at midnight, then the wreckers were to 
be ready for action. On that night, amid the storm, Mr. 
Day and I walked four miles to see her off, and 0, what 
a sight was around that vessel! Such a commotion where 
the " two sea smet ! " Such a roaring of wind and waves! 
Some had gone aboard in the early evening. Others were 
asleep at the light -house close by, until twelve o'clock at 
night. Then the old " sea-lions " rose, lighted their pipes, 
and put on their oil suits with a solemn silence like that 
when men go into battle. They knew their danger, for if 


she should leave the beach and be hauled out to her 
anchors it was possible for her hawsers to chafe and 
break, and then she would be driven upon the bar again 
amidst breakers where every life must be lost. With 
lantern in hand, Mr. Day and I stood upon the shore in 
the howling storm and saw the wreckers one by one ascend 
the ladder leaning against the wreck. Soon we heard the 
rattle of the windlass, and we watched patiently for the 
''jump," as she might rise upon a swell and quickly yield 
to the strain from her anchors. Her masts were seen in 
the dim light to sway a little, but she hesitated, until the 
wind shifted, the tide fell, the waves were cut down, and 
she stayed, while Mr. Day and I walked home through 
falling and drifting snow, and retired at half-past four, 
A. M., to get a snatch of "Nature's kind restorer," fully 
convinced that ''there is a tide in the affairs of men." 

How many more moons must wax and tides flow before 
another favorable combination of wind and tide should 
occur, not one of Daboll's almanacs could tell. The num- 
ber of pipes to be filled and smoked while discussing the 
damage likely to be done to that $5,000 gear, none could 
guess. At last the day came. Wreckers from all parts 
of the Island were there. At sunrise she "jumped" at 
the chance to leave the bar, as a heavy surge for an instant 
lifted her from the sand, and she darted for the deep 
water. The wind was "off .shore," and she went beyond 
her anchors, wheeled about, as if to look back at the place 
of her confinement. With no cargo, light, and bow to 
the wind, she seemed to writhe with impatience to escape, 
while we on shore rejoiced that she was off and no lives 
lost. After waiting an hour we saw her last anchor 
weighed and hawser slipped, and a scene was before us so 
beautiful that in a quarter of a minute we were paid for 
all of our long, stormy walks to the wreck. It was during 
that instant when, like a living creature, as she was trying 


to get away, she was completely freed, a huge swell lifted 
high her noble prow, the gib was hoisted, the gale struck 
it, and she wheeled so hurriedly and seemed to say, — 
" Good-by, Block Island ! You'll not catch me there 
again ! " as her colors were run up and she proudly began 
her flight for Newport over the foaming billows in splendid 

But the best of it all is yet untold. Ordinarily, in such 
a wrecking job everything movable is stolen. In this, 
while the wreckers had access to all parts of the vessel, 
not a thing was molested, and the captain said he did not 
lose so much as a piece of rope-yarn. Why was this 
exception? The wreckers were Christians. More than 
a barrel of whiskey would have been drunk, ordinarily, 
during so many weeks of working in cold winds and sleet 
by day and by night. But here, though offered by one 
of the officers of the vessel, not a gill was taken, because 
the wreckers were Christians. Ordinarily, among sailors, 
there is much profanity, but the absence of it among 
these one hundred wreckers was remarkable. Their few 
words had the firm tone of experience, softened by the 
friendly, Christian tone of brethren. Many of them, in 
years gone by, had been companions in vice. Now they 
were brethren together in the same Baptist church. A 
year before they had stood side by side in the house of 
Grod, with tears and contrite hearts asking for prayers, 
and there they had knelt together and plead for pardon 
through the crucified Redeemer. Scores of them had 
come into the liberty of the gospel together during the 
revival when, (in a population of only 1,200,) 121 were bap- 
tized into the same church. What a revival the same pro- 
portion of a large city would be ! 

Such are the Christian wreckers of Block Island, and 
the world may well thank God that there is one little spot 


on earth where the unfortunate mariner need not be 

afraid of robbery, profanity, or drunkenness. 

It should also be mentioned that the hospitality at the 

light-house near the wreck will not soon be forgotten. 

The keeper, and his Baptist wife, had their table set, and 

their fires burning day and night for crew and wreckers, 

and it is believed that more than 500 meals were there 

furnished gratuitously. That house is the successor of the 


" Set at the mouth of the Sound to hold 
The coast light up on its turret old 
Yellow with moss and sea fog mould." 


The following facts, chronologically and briefly arranged 
under this subject, will doubtless be of increasing interest 
as one generation shall succeed another. That they 
are a proof of an unfaltering and commendable persist- 
ency originating on the Island none can deny, and pos- 
terity will honor those who have done most to identify by 
means of a permanent, public harbor this isolated point, 
commercially, financially, and socially with the great 
brotherhood abroad. 

''There ivas no harbor.'^ This was said, A. D. 1660, in 
the original memorandum of agreement to purchase and 
settle the Island, In 1665, Thomas Terry, one of the 
first purchasers, in behalf of the Islanders, presented a 
petition to the court of Rhode Island for assistance to 
build a harbor, and in response the Governor, his Deputy, 
and Mr. John Clarke, were appointed to visit the Island 
"to see and judge whether there be a possibility to make 
a harbor." Five years after, in 1670, the same petition 
was repeated by Thomas Terry and Hugh Williams, and 
in reply the Rhode Island Assembly appointed Caleb 
Carr, and Joseph Torrey, of Newport, to raise contribu- 
tions "to make a convenient harbour there, to the en- 
couradging fishing designs." It was about ten years 
before the results of this movement were visible. 


In 1680 the Islanders were thoroughly united in an 
effort which organized a Harbor Company with " liberty 


and license to erect and build a harbor, or harbors upon 
the Island in any place." The town gave the company 
'•'all the land or meadow * * gained by the making 
of the harbor or harbors." It also gave "two days 
work a year of each inhabitant," and also "the whole 
privilege of the harbor." Capt. James Sands was the 
leading man in this company, into which several new 
members were admitted, and acknowledged such before 
Chief Warden Simon Ray, Sept 14, 1686. This first 
harbor on Block Island was in the Great Pond, as the 
"land or meadow" produced by it must have come from 
lowering its water, and as no other water could be so 
reduced. This was done at a place on the west side of 
the Great Pond where only a narrow rim of sand sepa- 
rates it from the ocean, and hence that rim extending 
southerly and widening into arable land was subsequently 
known as "Harbor Neck." 

In July, 1694, fourteen years after the Harbor Com- 
pany was organized, it surrendered to the town its charter, 
evidently because the enterprise was not successful. The 
following ordinance was then passed : " Voted at the 
Town Meeting upon Capt. Sands an(J James Sands' terms 
to the town to surrender up the harbor and harbor 
meadows to the Island, proceeded to accept of it and take 
and maintain it in good repairs and enter into mutual 
obligations for the performance thereof." Not long after 
this the town leased the harbor privileges to one Robert 
Carr, on the condition of his making certain harbor and 
fishing improvements. At this time the whole enterprise 
was dechning. Mr. Carr did not fulfill his contract, and 
all reverted to the town again. In 1699 the Island made 
another contract with Robert Carr, Jun., granting him a 
parcel of land "lying on the Harbor Neck," on the con- 
dition of his "binding himself for to be forward in 
making a harbor and promoting the fishing trade accord- 


ing to the obligation of his father, Robert Carr, Sen." 
Again the harbor reverted to the town, and in Sept., 
1696, was made the following record of the enterprise of 
the people, and their great need of a harbor, showing 
also who were voters here then : 

•' Wee, the inhabitants of Block Island, considering the 
manyfold dangers, trobles, defucoltys and perels wee are 
hable to with respect to the exporting and emporting our 
goods, the chefe cause of which Is for want of the con- 
venienst of a harbur ; wee therefore Eunanimusly agree 
as foloeath, That is to say, leave [levy] Raise and pay one 
hundered pounds In mony or the treu valu, said mony to 
be levied proporsionally according to Each man's Estate 
both reall and pursonall, the one thurd of which shall be 
payed at or before the furst of Novembur next Inseuing 
the date hereof, one third at or before the first of July 
foloing and one third at or before the first of Septembr 
then next Inseuing : for the Reserving In and laying out 
of the same wee Intreat our loving frends and Neayth- 
bours Simon Ray and Mr. Edward Ball as Trustese In the 
townes behalf to take the manegment of It one them: 
AVee also desier Mr. John Sands, Mr. Thomus Rathbone, 
Mr. Nath'll Mott, Mr. Edward Sands to bee undertackers 
of said worck. Wee also Intreat said Mr. Ray and Mr. 
Ball to apointe a meeting to chuse Valuators and Rate 
makers to proporsionate the above said. In conformation 
as the above written wee bind our selves to each other, 
the defecttive to pay all dameges to the observemante one 
[on] defalte as witness our hands this third of September 

John Baning, John Daudg, 

Trustrum Daudg, John Ackers, 

John Mitchell, James Danielson, 

Wilham Rathbone, Simon Ray, 

Thomas Mitchell, Edward Ball, 

THE PIEE. 143 

Thomas Dickens, Thomas Rathbone, 

Gregory Mark, John Sands, 

William Daudg, Nath'll Mott, 

Joseph Mitchell, Edward Sands, 

Joseph Rathbone, John Rathbone. 
Samuell Rathbone, 

21 Freeholders, $25 average. 

This new effort was crowned with only a temporary 
success for in June, 1705, the enterprise was abandoned, 
after a, continuance of twenty-five years and great expense 
and anxiety. The principal reason assigned by the town 
was that by "the providence of God that a prodidgious 
storm hath broken down the above said harbor and laid 
it waste." 


In 1707 mention was made of the "Old Harbor," the 
one at the Breach, which also may imply the existence of 
a new one. The new one was evidently in the bay, on 
the east side of the Island, for in 1707 a highway was 
opened, running on the west side of the Great Pond '-to 
Sandy Point." and thence "to the Harbor," that road 
being the same that now runs from Sandy Point to the 
present Harbor. For entering this new harbor, above- 
mentioned, in 1709, the town taxed each foreign vessel of 
over four tons burthen one shilling and six pence, and 
the same for each period of twenty-four hours she re- 
mained in it ; and those of four tons burthen and less 
from Sibwsid were taxed six pence for the same harbor 
privileges. Said harbor was subsequently known as " the 

In a record of 1717, the Islanders spoke of their 
"Harbor Bay," 8,nd in this same year the town passed an 
act that foreign vessels, for entering their harbor, or 
fastening at their pier should be taxed as follows: 


A vessel of four tons burthen, . .010 

A vessel of over four tons, and less than ten, 16 
A vessel of ten tons and upward, . .020 

This act was repealed in 1718. 

The new harbor, or pier, was serviceable about twelve 
years, until it, like the old one in the Great Pond at the 
''Breach," was destroyed by a storm. In 1723, the town 
petitioned the Rhode Island Assembly for assistance, and 
received in reply the following encouragement : ""Where- 
as the town of New Shoreham, by petition, has laid before 
this Assembly the great damage they have sustained in 
losing their pier, in the late great storm, whereby there is 
scarcely any landing on said Island, to bring off any of 
their produce, nor no riding for vessels in a storm ; and 
also the great detriment, for the want of a pier at said 
Island, for the encouragement of the navigation of this 
colony, especially the fishery, which is begun to be carried 
on successfully, and that the inhabitants of the Island are 
not able of themselves to do the same. 

" Upon consideration whereof, it is voted, and enacted 
by this Assembly, that the inhabitants of New Shoreham 
have liberty of gathering money by subscription, through- 
out this colony; and that the town of New Shoreham 
make a rate upon said town for completing the same." 


This was the beginning of a new and vigorous effort 
which required much time and persistency to carry it on 
to success. The question of locating a third hgw'bor was 
agitated, the first in the Great Pond, and the second in 
the bay, having both proved failures. Accordingly, in 
1733, ten years after the commencement, the Rhode 
Island Assembly appointed a committee consisting of 
Governor William Wanton, Capt. Benjamin Ellery, Col. 
William Coddington, Mr. Joseph Whipple, Col. Joseph 


Stanton, Capt. John Potter, Capt, Wm. Wanton, Jr., and 
Mr. Geo. Goulding ''to go over to Block Island to view 
the same, and consider of a convenient place to build a 
pier, or harbor, and of the charge, &c., and make report 
to the next General Assembly." In June, 1734, the 
Assembly appointed as "a committee to procure materials 
for building a pier at Block Island, and making a harbor 
there," Simon Ray, Peter Ball, Henry Bull, Wm. Brown, 
and Wm. Wanton, Jr., the first two being from the Island, 
and then Representatives, or "Deputies," in the General 
Assembly. This committee were authorized also "to go 
on with the work and perfect the same as soon as conven- 
iently may be," and accordingly they began the work of 
"cutting a passage through the beach." Where this was, 
except at the old pond harbor or near, it is not easy to 
imagine. In February, 1835, however, this project was 
stopped by an act of the General Assembly, which at 
the same time appropriated £1,200 for "making an addi- 
tion to the old pier, or building a new one." In August of 
the same year Capt. Simon Ray and Capt. Peter Ball were 
appointed by the Assembly " a committee to improve the 
£1,200 allowed to build a pier at Block Island, or repair 
the old one." In February, 1736, nothing had been done 
to the pier. The work was soon after begun. The old 
pier was preserved, and a new one built near it. Fre- 
quent storms were damaging both while the work was 
going on, and the money appropriated to build was spent 
to a considerable extent in repairing both piers. In 1742 
the town petitioned the Assembly again for another 
appropriation, saying : " As your petitioners have been at 
great charges to repair the same, and their endeavors 
have hitherto been fruitless, by the frequent storms that 
have happened, before the same could be completed." In 
response £200 were appropriated, and drawn from the 
treasury by Capt. Edward Sands. In June, 1743, £400 


were also appropriated by the State; to be paid only when 
the work was completed. In May, 1745, Messrs. Samuel 
Rodman, Teddeman Hull, and Abel Franklin, a State 
committee to view the pier, reported to the Assembly 
that they "found it to be completely finished." 

This work was quite inadequate and was not of long 
endurance, and the town, in 1762, through a petition pre- 
sented by Messrs. Edmund Sheffield and Joseph Speneer, 
applied to the Assembly for a lottery charter, the avails of 
which were to be appropriated in making a harbor of the 
Great Pond, and in improving its fisheries. The lottery 
was granted, but was unsuccessful. In 1773, a similar 
petition, very ably drawn up, was presented in behalf of 
the town by John Littlefield and John Sands, asking for 
an appropriation of money, and hoping to raise all addi- 
tional funds needed "by lotteries." The great need of a 
harbor then was set forth by the following facts : The 
necessity of swimming their horses, cattle, and sheep to 
the vessels and hoisting them aboard; high frieght on 
account of difficult landing; dangers of life, and damage to 
goods and animals ; value of a harbor to fisheries; the con- 
venience of the Great Pond for a harbor, and its fish; 
and the benefits to the Island, doubling the value of it by a 
good harbor; advantages to the colony, "and to the neigh- 
boring governments." The petition made the following 
record: "The most effectual remedy for all these evils 
may be provided by cutting a channel from the sea into 
the aforementioned pond, which is large enough to con- 
tain the whole British navy, and deep enough for any 
vessels in this colony. Between the sea and the pond 
there is a sand-bank about twenty rods wide, and on the 
pond side, ten feet of water within two rods of the bank, 
which soon increases to thirty feet; and on the side of 
the sea there is also a very fine bold shore; that a channel 
was formerly cut through the said bank, and became so 


navigable, that vessels of seventy and eighty tons burthen 
have actually sailed into the pond, but the place where 
the said channel was formed not being properly defended 
on the sea-side, it filled up with sand. 

"The place now proposed for opening a communica- 
tion with the sea is about a quarter of a mile southward 
from the old channel, where the water is much deeper, 
and the channel will be secured by a point of rocks that 
lies to the southward, which affords the greatest prospect 
of obtaining an effectual and lasting harbor." (See R. I. 
Col Rec, VIII., 209.) 

In August, 1773, Stephen Hopkins, Eseck Hopkins, and 
Joseph "Wanton, Jr., a committee of examination of the 
Great Pond and the adjacent beach, reported back to the 
Assembly feebly in favor of the above project, which was 
never carried out. The Revolution soon began to absorb 
the attention of the colonies, and Block Island was prompt 
in passing a resolution to co-operate with all American 
citizens in opposing the aggressions of England. The long 
struggle for independence which followed, and the gene- 
ral exhaustion of the country put a long-continued obsta- 
cle in the way of further effort to secure a harbor for 
Block Island. 


The Pole Harior, as it may be designated, was begun 
about the year 1816. A single individual, at low tide, 
near the shore end of the present breakwater, sunk a 
few spiles close to each other, about six feet deep, the 
upper parts of them rising above the water from ten to 
fifteen feet. To these he could tie up his boat in ordinary 
weather. Others followed his example, until long rows of 
such poles extended out into a considerable depth of 
water at high tide. Between two parallel rows, sfones 
were placed, and little piers were thus built up. This 
construction was carried on for many years by so many 


Islanders that a forest of oak poles became the principal 
harbor into which twenty or more boats could enter at a 
time for lading or unlading, except in a storm. Then the 
boats were drawm up on the shore out of reach of the 
water. Well do the older inhabitants now remember the 
many stormy nights when in the cold wind and rain they 
were obliged to leave their comfortable beds and yoke 
their oxen, and go to the harbor and assist one another in 
hauling up their boats. Thus matters went on for half a 
century, the pole harbor being far better than none, with 
little improvements here and there, until the poles were 
over one thousand in number. After many have been 
removed for the present harbor, seven hundred and fifty 
are now standing in 1876, and are still of considerable 
service, in fair weather, to the fishermen. Some of them, 
like the stumps of the old pier still visible, will doubtless 
long remain after they are useless, and after those who 
set them have all passed away, many of them to enjoy ''A 
Home Beyond the Tide," "Safe Within the Vail," of 
which we have heard them sing so heartily since the great 
religious awakening in 1873. 


The Government Harhor, at Block Island, next and 
lastly claims our attention. ''In 1838 the two Houses of 
Congress passed resolutions directing the attention of the 
departments to this subject, and authorizing a favorable 
report." {Cong. Ghhe, Feb. 16, 1867.) In 1867 it was 
again agitated, after the long lapse of nearly thirty years, 
and after an able speech in its favor by Senator Sprague, 
of Rhode Island, Congress took action in favor of con- 
structing a breakwater at Block Island. But this national 
moveinent did not begin at Washington. What was 
done there was, in a measure, the effect of preceding 
causes. By coming back from effect to cause we shall 


find that this Government Harbor, already affording so 
much profit and pleasure to the public, originated on 
Block Island. In Jan., 1867, previous to the action of 
Congress in Feb. of that year, the Rhode Island Assembly 
instructed the Senators and Representatives in Congress 
from this State, "to use their best exertions to procure an 
appropriation from Congress for the purpose of building 
a breakwater, or of securing a safe harbor for vessels at 
said Island." This action, too, was the result of a plan 
previously originated on the Island, a plan which simul- 
taneously united the efforts of many Chambers of Com- 
merce, the Rhode Island Legislature, and both houses of 
Congress. The harbor question was introduced into the 
U. S. Senate by Senator Sprague on the 16th of Feb., and 
on the 18th the Boston Journal said: ''Hon. Nicholas 
Ball [of Block Island] was before the Senate Committee 
on Commerce this morning to advocate the appropriation 
for a breakwater at Block Island. The committee were 
so impressed by Mr. Ball's plain facts they voted to rec- 
ommend an appropriation of $40,000." Gov. Padelford, 
in his message of Jan., 1873, also said: "Much credit is 
also due to the Hon. Nicholas Ball, for his unwearied 
exertions in behalf of the improvements on Block Island, 
for through his means alone the attention of the Cham- 
bers of Commerce of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, 
and Providence, as well as those engaged in commerce in 
our northern cities, was enlisted in the work." 

In the second session of Congress, in 1867, the Secre- 
tary of War was directed to cause surveys to be made 
for a harbor at Block Island. The survey was made by 
Geo. W. Dresser, Assistant Engineer, under the direction 
of Col. D. C. Houston, and an elaborate report of the 
same was made Nov. 1st, 1867, to Col. Houston, who 
gave an abstract of it to the War Department in Jan., 


1868; and in March of that year, Secretary of War E. M. 
Stanton reported the same to Congress. 

So many have expressed opinions in reference to the 
Great Pond as a harbor, the following extracts from the 
government survey are here given: 

"At the point on the west side marked breach the 
Islanders make a cut, which has to be opened several 
times a year for the purpose of drawing off the water 
from the pond into the sound sufficiently to keep the road 
dry, which runs along the east shore of the Island from 
north to south between the pond and the ocean. This 
breach is but a small ditch dug in the sand which fills up 
at the mouth or west end a little higher than ordinary 
high-water mark during the first heavy westerly blow 
that occurs after it is dug out. 

<' It has always been a favorite idea with some of the 
Islanders to avail of this pond as a harbor by making a 
cut on the west into it from the sound. But from all that 
I can learn nothing of the kind has ever been attempted, 
except to open the breach for the purpose referred to 
above." [Neither Mr. Dresser, nor the Islanders were 
then aware of the existence of the old records which we 
have recently discovered of the Great Pond Harbor, of 
which the early part of this article gives an account. 
S. T. L.] 

'' In order to make a harbor of the Great Pond at Block 
Island the cut should be made, if at all, at a point farther 
south than the breach, for at that point the distance from 
the south to the deepest water in the pond is the shortest. 
To make a channel available for all purposes the cut 
should be made at least twenty-five feet deep below mean 
low- water mark, and the width of which the nature of 
the ground will admit is not over 650 feet. 

" The estimates for this excavation are made upon a 
basis of 25 feet deep, 633 feet average width, and an 


average length at the bottom of the cut of 2,425 feet^ 
giving 996,104^^ cubic yards of excavation, 

"At fifty cents per cubic yard this excavation would be 

" Having made the excavation it would be necessary to 
protect the entrance to it from the sound by piers built 
out into the water. These would have to be built in the 
most substantial manner, of masonry, and estimated upon 
a basis of 20 feet wide, 900 feet long on each side, and 
an average depth of 17^ feet, would require about 24,000 
yards of cubic stone, and would cost from $300,000 to 
$500,000, making the whole cost of the channel about 
one million of dollars. The action of the water would 
bank up the sand on the outside of these piers, and event- 
ually it would make land out to the ends of them. The 
pond at the time of making the survey at this point was 
two feet four inches higher than mean low-water in the 
sound. The average rise and fall of the tide on the west 
shore is about three feet six inches. This would cause a 
strong current either to or from the pond, causing sand 
and sediment to deposit at different points in the channel, 
according to the direction and stage of the tide. Bars 
would form at the ends of the channel, and the bottom of 
the sound being sand the channel would ultimately fill up 
on the sound end in spite of all precautions to protect it. 
The same causes that fill up the hreach would fill up this, 
and a constant expenditure would be necessary to dredge 
it out. 

"A glance at the soundings of the pond will show the 
exceedingly irregular conformation of the bottom of it, 
and that only a small portion of the water could be used 
for anchorage, without continued vexation and trouble 
from getting aground. 

" The prevailing storms from which the most shelter is 
required are from the east. But this would be a head 


wind to beat through a narrow channel to get into the 
harbor or pond, and if blowing hard it would be impos- 
sible to beat in at all, while if in the pond it w^ould be 
equally difficult to get out with a west wind. 

" There is one point which would be of vital import- 
ance if it should become necessary to use the pond as a 
harbor in naval defense, viz.: it freezes completely in 

" Hence, I conclude that although a cut might be made 
and kept open at a large expense, it would not be avail- 
able at all times either for ingress or egress, and that the 
advantages gained by the work would not be commensu- 
rate with the expense, particularly when compared with 
what might be obtained at the other point on the east 
side of the Island by huilding a hreakwater into the hayy 

In June, 1868, the bill for an appropriation for the said 
harbor was before Congress, asking for $74,000. It was 
strongly opposed by Mr. Washburn, of Illinois, in the 
House, and yet the vote then taken was favorable, but 
owing to a hurried adjournment of Congress the bill was 
not voted on by the Senate, and none was granted. Per- 
sistent efforts, however, were continued from Block 
Island and the Ehode Island Legislature and Congres- 
sional Representatives. Twelve years were thus worn 
away before any thing effectual was accomplished. Then 
the General Assembly of Rhode Island renewed its often 
repeated instruction to its Representatives in Congress "to 
use all means in their power to secure the legislation neces- 
sary to ensure the construction of the required pier on 
Block Island." In response to this the Hon. Henry B. 
Anthony, from Rhode Island, made a powerful speech in 
the U. S. Senate, Feb. 16, 1870, and in July, 1870,. Con- 
gress made an appropriation of $30,000, for the Block 
Island breakwater, which already has been seen by so 
many who have visited the Island in fishing vessels, 


pleasure yachts, and steamers, that a description of it is 
not here needed. 

Its construction was begun Oct. 22, 1870, "at 3.30 p. m., 
amid great rejoicing of the people." "John Beattie took 
the contract at $2.82 per ton, to put in granite from low- 
water mark, keeping the structure above tide as he pro- 
ceeded, and run it so far as the allowance would permit. 
Under this contract the breakwater was carried some 
three hundred feet, and the Islanders themselves furnished 
about one thousand tons of stone." 

In March, 1871, another appropriation was granted by 
Congress of $75,000. The government contracted with 
Messrs. Finch, Engs & Co. of Newport, for 300,000 feet 
of timber for the crib, or basin, as it is now called, a tem- 
porary harbor for smaller vessels until the great harbor is 
completed. Messrs. Place & Co., of New York, furnished 
56,000 pounds of iron bolts. Messrs. Campbell & Co., of 
New York, agreed to place 7,000 tons of granite for the 
breakwater, and the Islanders laid 5,000 tons besides 
completing Mr. Campbell's contract. Thus the stone- 
work, called "riprap stone," was extended into the sea 
over 600 feet from the shore. It now extends out one 
thousand feet. 

In June, 1872, another- appropriation of $50,000 was 
made by Congress, and the contract of placing 10,000 tons 
of stone was awarded to Hon. John G. Sheffield, of Block 
Island, who did the work for $7,600 less than the lowest 
bid from abroad. His work was completed June 30, 
1873, and by his able management saved expense to the 
government, and gave employment to his townsmen. 
Meanwhile the blasting and removing of rocks and dredg- 
ing were going on and under this last appropriation the 
Government Harbor became a success, and soon the 
Islanders built boats ^ith decks, and no longer, in storms, 
landed by riding the biggest of "three brothers " upon 


the shore, at fearful risk, nor hauled their boats ashore 
with oxen in the night, to protect them from the storm, 
and fishing fleets from abroad find refuge from the dan- 
gers of the ocean. 

Here it should be remarked, to the honor of those who 
have thus far done the work and received the appropria- 
tions, no complaints of embezzlement are recorded against 
them. No extra appropriations over and above the en- 
gineer's estimates have been called for. On the contrary, 
work, the cost of which the U. S. Board of Engineers, at 
their meeting in New York, in Feb., 1868, estimated at 
$372,000, has been done for $155,000. If the remaining 
work can be done with equal integrity and economy, the 
total cost, instead of being $2,915,016, as estimated by 
said board, will be much less than one-half that sum. 
This is an encouragement to the public and to Congress 
to carry the harbor construction forward. 

In the construction of the harbor a few incidents have 
occurred that merit a record. The removal of "Peaked 
Rock " is one of them. For centuries it had been a con- 
cealed enemy to the boatmen, raising its head near 
enough to the surface to sink a vessel by making a hole 
in its bottom. A spindle of iron for many years had 
risen from its peak to hold a keg over the danger. When 
the present basin was built this formidable rock was 
removed by the work of a submarine diver and the appli- 
cation of dualin. Twenty-five pounds of this powerful 
agency were applied to Peaked Rock, containing an ex- 
plosive power of about three hundred pounds of powder. 
When all was ready, and ample warning given, the elec- 
tric battery produced the explosion that shook the whole 
Island, threw up a high column of spray, and shattered 
the rock to fragments. Other similar rocks were thus 


removed from their troublesome positions. The lives of 
many fish, some of considerable size, were destroyed by 
the blasting. 

While excavating for the '' crib-work" of the harbor, 
a singular substance was thrown up in considerable quan- 
tity, of the consistency of moist blue clay. Mr. Ray S. 
Littlefield threw a piece into his wagon and carried it 
home, where it became dry and hard. After a few years 
he gave it to the writer, supposing it to be petrifaction. 
The writer proved it to be native coal, which at some 
future day may be an index to a mine beneath the Ocean 
View hill. 



One of the greatest curiosities of the Island is found 
to be its ponds. But few inhabited and cultivated parts 
of the earth can be named, no larger than Block Island, 
with so great a number and variety of ponds as here 
exist. The exact number of those which do not become 
dry once in ten years has not been exactly ascertained, 
but they may be estimated at over a hundred without 
exaggeration. They vary in size from the duck pool to 
the Great Pond, which is said to cover one thousand acres. 
The smaller ones are so interspersed as to furnish every 
farmer with the benefits of from one to twenty, and as 
springs are not abundant, and as only one stream can 
approach the dignity accorded to a small brook, these 
little ponds are of very great convenience for watering 
animals and for raising fowls. 

The formation of these ponds is peculiar. There is 
probably not one of them sustained by springs or streams. 
They are generally in little deep pockets formed by the 
surrounding steep hillocks constituting water-sheds for 
their respective ponds. These pockets have clay bottoms 
that hold the water like caldrons, and the surface-water 
compensates for the slow evaporation. The same surface- 
water for ages, before the forest was consumed, carried 
leaves, nuts, and bark, and decayed wood into said pockets, 
and hence an almost inexhaustible supply of peat has been 
preserved, and where there is a pond, peat, with a few 
exceptions, is obtained, and thus the many little farms of 


the Island are amply furnished with fuel for the house, 
and water for the animals — water not suitable for domes- 
tic purposes. These pecuHarities of the ponds are found 
in the highest, as well as the lowest parts of the Island — 
on the bluffs near the steep descent to the sea, and in 
other places almost on a level with the ocean. The fol- 
lowing are soriie of the more noted: 

The Great Pond. 

This name is very appropriate, given by Roger Wil- 
liams in 1649, for in proportion to the land or Island, of 
which the pond is a part, it is an inland sea. Its length 
is about one-third the length of the Island, and its width 
is enough less to give it much of the form of an ellipse. 
One thousand acres are said by good authority to be em- 
braced in its surface. Its depth is quite variable, and 
much like the uneven surface of the land adjacent, ac- 
cording to the soundings of the government surveyor 
who examined it, in reference to making of it a harbor. 
Twelve fathoms are its maximum depth, and that on the 
side nearest to the sea, a fact worthy of observation. It 
is separated from the sea on the west by a strip of land 
so narrow that when viewed from Beacon Hill it appears 
like the rim of a basin, or an arc embracing a quarter of 
a circle. Its easterly shore, mostly, is called the Neck, 
and at the southern end, Indian Head Neck. Most of 
that part between its southwest shore and the sea was 
called Charlestown a hundred years ago, and the narrow 
portion of said part was then known by the name of 
Harbor Neck, as the harbor anciently was in the Great 
Pond at the breach. The south end of the pond lies 
about midway of the Island from north to south. 

By many this pond is supposed to be sustained by 
springs and the main water-sheds adjacent. But this is an 
error. From its unshaded surface more could evaporate 


in a day than would thus be supplied from such known 
sources in a week. As before seen, the surface of the 
whole Island is thickly indented with deep little pockets 
that catch nearly all the surface-water, and the clay bot- 
toms of them prevent the formation of outlets in the 
from of rills and springs. All the supposed feeders of 
the pond combined are not equal to those that support a 
mill-pond on some small stream that is dry a quarter of 
the time in the country. Whence, then, it may be asked, 
does the Great Pond obtain its support ? From the sea, 
is the simple reply. The rim between it and the sea is so 
narrow that the water from the latter filters through into 
the former. A brief examination shows this, and the 
principal reason why it has not been more generally 
admitted, seems to be that the Islanders and most of 
others are not acquainted with the fact that sea-water 
thoroughly filtered through fine sand becomes fresh. 
Knowing, however, that the pond is of itself fresh-water, 
becoming salt only as the breach lets in a little occasion- 
ally, and as the sea slops over into the pond during heavy 
storms, they have supposed its freshness must be the result 
of a fresh supply from the land, which is quite inadequate. 
This explanation is in harmony with the observation made 
by Lord Bacon that " sea-water passing or straining through 
the sands leaveth the saltness," and by this means he says 
Caesar once saved his army. The Great Pond, therefore, 
is a body of fresh water, artificially, or incidentally salted 
enough to make it brackish most of the time ; and this is 
our apology, together with a preference for the shorter 
name, for calling it the Great Pond, instead of the " Great 
Salt Pond." 

Formerly it contributed largely to the support of the 
Island. Its products of fish, oysters, clams, quahaugs, and 
scallops has been greatly dependent upon the salt-water 
admitted through the Breach, an opening into the sea that 


was ample for the support of these shell-fish before, and 
for a considerable time after the settlement of the Island. 
The scallop shells, and others now found at the graves of 
the natives show that they were common anciently; and 
within the memory of the present inhabitants, oysters of 
an excellent quality have been raked up there in large 
quantities. Mr. Wm. P. Ball says that when a boy he 
once gathered there from their native beds twenty bushels 
in one day. For several years the water has been too 
fresh to grow them, and hence this branch of Block 
Island fisheries has "run out," a thing to be lamented, for 
shell-fish are now seldom tasted on the Island. That the 
Great Pond might be made the source of great profit by 
opening the breach suflSciently to salt the millions of little 
oysters and clams already there planted, no one can reason- 
ably doubt. It is hoped that some capitalists will soon 
secure this opportunity which is now in the hands of Mr. 
John Thomas who well understands how to secure there 
an abundance of valuable herring, shad, and shell-fish, 
but lacks the means to accomplish the work necessary. 
He has a fifteen-year lease of the pond from the town, 
and from it has derived some revenue in his spring catch 
of herrings. Besides the above transient fish the Great 
Pond abounds with perch and eels, and bass have lately been 

In 1762, Block Island petitioned the Rhode Island 
Assembly, through Edmund Sheflfield and Joseph Spencer. 
for a chartered lottery by means of which to improve the 
Great Pond for fishing. In their petition it was stated 
" That on the westermost side of said Island there is a 
large pond, covering above one thousand acres of land, 
which formerly had a communication with the sea by a 
creek; that then the fishing-ground for cod was well 
known, and bass was there to be caught in great plenty ; 
that since the creek has been stopped the fishing-ground 


for cod is uncertain, they being scattered about in many 
places; and the bass have chiefly left the Island." 

Asa source of pleasure to summer visitors, the G-reat 
Pond cannot be surpassed for fishing, swimming, rowing, 
and sailing. Free from the swells and dangerous surf of 
the sea, several miles in length, and broad enough for 
tacking in any wind, it is evidently destined to do far 
more for the pleasure-seeking public than it has hitherto. 
Mr. Simon Ball & Sons, at the south end of it, during the 
summer of 1876, launched a safe and commodious yacht 
for the accommodation of visitors, and received a liberal 

Chagum Pond. 

This name is commonly pronounced Shawgum, and is 
probably taken from an Indian. We have a record of 
one Samuel Chagum, who distinguished himself here in 
1711 by stealing a canoe, running away from his master, 
losing the canoe, and suffering the penalty from the war- 
dens of six months added to his former period of servi- 
tude. The pond lies between the Great Pond and Sandy 
Point, and is about as large as a tenth part of the latter 
pond. It is fresh, and supported from the sea, separated 
from it the proper distance for filtering the sea-water. In 
the great gale of 1815, the sea waves were so high as to 
pass over into Chagum Pond, the only time of which we 
have an account of such an occurrence. 

The Middle Pond. 
This lies between Chagum Pond and the Great Pond, 
and is separated from the sea, west of the Island, by a 
narrow rim of sand, through which the salt-water is fil- 
tered and freshened. The Middle Pond is distinguished 
chiefly as the place where the British vessels, in the times 
of war, have obtained water, and where, in 1812-15, they 
frequently did the washing of their clothes on its green. 


eastern shore. It lies west of Hon. J. G. Sheffield's resi- 
dence. Chagum Pond was also a resort of the British 
for water. 

Fresh Pond. 

This is about a mile south of the G-reat Pond, and on 
land much more elevated. The road south from the Cen- 
ter leads to it, and visitors in considerable numbers resort 
there for the fine perch fishing. The pond itself is also 
attractive, clear, and surrounded with green shores in 
view of pleasant residences. It covers several acres, and 
was anciently looked upon from the windows and doors 
of the first school-house, and the first meeting-house on 
the Island. They were located on the east shore, near the 
north end. There, too, the first Island minister settled, 
had his residence, and these sites were selected, probably, 
with reference to the attractions of this beautiful little 
sheet of water. 

Sands' Pond. 

The clearest, the handsomest, and the highest of all 
that may be considered large enough to be noted, is this 
gem in an emerald setting. It is southeast from the Fresh 
Pond, and near the residence of Dea. R. T. Sands, and 
his brother WilHam C. Sands. It is remarkable for its 
beauty, and for the mysterious manner in which it is sup- 
ported. Located on some of the highest ground of the 
Island, with no water-shed of any account, more than a 
hundred feet above the sea, from which it is more than a 
mile distant at the nearest point, with gravelly shores, with 
but a few feet of average depth, why it never dries up is 
a question that remains to be solved. No volcanic appear- 
ances are in its vicinity to justify us in classifying it with 
the crater ponds on the main-land. We could imagine it 
to be the terminus of a vein from a southeasterly and 
higher ground were there a ledge on the Island, instead 


of the drift material of which it is composed. That it is 
fed from some source is evident from its clearness and its 

Harbor Pond. 

Near the old pier or harbor is a small pond, northwest 
from the present harbor. This, like the Great Pond, and 
Chagum Pond, is fed from the sea, although separated 
from it perhaps twenty-five rods. It is of a peculiar 
color, owing to the great quantity of iron sand through 
which the water from the sea filters. At times its appear- 
ance is very rusty, and at a distance, in some reflections 
of the light, it has a purple tinge. Small sail-boats and 
row-boats on it, owned by Mr. Negus & Sons afford much 
pleasure to visitors. Its fleet of ice-boats in winter will 
long be remembered by the boys who have there enjoyed 
so many voyages, capsizings, and wrecks while accompa- 
nied by sisters, and other gentle-handed cousins and 

Fort Island Pond. 

Only a narrow neck of land separates this from the 
south end of the G-reat Pond. It is distinguished chiefly 
by the little island from which its name is taken. It is a 
pretty sheet, covering several acres, of very irregular 
shape, bordered with green fields, and is an ornament to 
tiie landscape view from the Central House, and from Mr. 
Frank Willis'. For fifteen years it has been the home of 
a resident whose age is not known, but his race is notori- 
ous. He is evidently a descendant of ancestors hving 
here while King Philip and his warriors were scalping 
the white people on the main-land. He is seen only once 
or twice a year, and when seen a few years ago by a 
sturdy young man, the latter hastened to the house faint 
and trembling and tried to describe the "old settler." Dur- 
ing the summer of 1876, he was seen again, and from 


the description given of him, his appropriate name seems 
to be, the Fort Island Pond 8er2^ent. The above facts are 
easily authenticated. The serpent is evidently a large, 
old, black water-snake, entirely harmless, and as shy as 
the Indians who possibly worshiped his forefathers. 

The Mill Pond. 

We notice this, not for its size, but as the only one 
here known as a mill-pond, and as a historical relic. It 
was made by Capt. James Sands, and is now owned by 
Mr. Almanzo Littlefield, lying south of the old mill where 
com was at first ground, and wool was subsequently 
carded. Here was the first case of drowning on the 
Island of which we have any account. Capt. Sands, one 
of the first proprietors, then had an only child, "a girl 
just able to run about and prattle a little." In an un- 
guarded moment she escaped from her mother's eye, fell 
into the pond near the house, and was there drowned 
before she was rescued. 


There are three natural, or recognized divisions of 
Block Island, viz. : The Corn Neck, the East Side, and the 
West Side. The latter two may be distinguished as sep- 
arated by the road that runs from the south end of the 
Great Pond to the east shore of the Fresh Pond and 
thence to the south end of the Island. The soil of the 
West Side differs from that of the East Side, and the 
people of the one side differ from those of the other side. 
Originally, Simon Ray, and after him his son Simon, at 
whose house the famous cheese was made which Benjamin 
Franklin wrote about to Miss Catharine Ray, and at which 
the unfortunate inmates of the Palatine were welcomed, 
honored the West Side; while James Sands, and his 
descendants, at the stone house and the Sands Garrison 


were making the East Side famous in the vicinity of the 
"Sands Harbor." John Rathbone, also, was located on 
the West Side, little aware that the time was coming 
when his descendants would be reported heirs of $40,- 
000,000 in the Bank of England. 

The natural points of interest on the West Side are 
not yet so well known as they will be at some future day. 
Nor is it easy to trace out the entangled legends concern- 
ing them. They have received but little attention from 
the naturalist, and perhaps less from the inhabitants. It 
is hoped that the few things here said may be an index, 
at least, to induce others to delineate more fully the pe- 
culiarities of the West Side. 

Sandy Hill, there, arrests the attention of the visitor. 
It is near the Sound shore, with a base a quarter of a mile 
long from' north to south, and half that distance east and 
west, rising about one hundred feet to a point on which 
half a dozen horses might stand, affording a fine view of 
the sea, of Montauk, and of Watch Hill, and also of the 
west shore of the Island. It is a pile of drift, and would 
be worth a fortune for sand and gravel if properly located. 
It is almost wholly destitute of vegetation, except the 
tuft of grass on the top which makes the tout-ensemble look 
somewhat like a Chinese head. Its base rests upon a bed 
of peat, which shows that it was thrown up after the 
Island had produced vegetation. At its eastern foot is a 
famous deposit of ''firing," "tug," or peat, as it is called. 

Grace^s Cove is near Sandy Hill, and the place it occu- 
pies is sometimes call G-race's Point, and has been distin- 
guished somewhat as a place for landing small boats. It 
was there, probably, that the Mohegan Indians landed 
when they came by moonlight from Stonington, or Watch 
Hill, in force, to fight the Manisseans, and were so bar- 
barously destroyed at Mohegan Bluff. 

Dorry^s Cove is at the terminus of the road that runs 


from the Center to the west beach. It seems to have 
taken its name from an ancient owner by the name of 
Tormot Rose, whose name was sometimes written Dormut, 
or Dormud. He owned the land adjacent, and gave the 
cove, now partially filled up with sand, some notoriety by 
a little incident of dumping a cart-load of stone into the 
cove, and accidentally losing an ox by so doing — the team 
going back with the failing load. Mr. Rose mourned 
bitterly the loss of his ox, and was chided for it by a 
neighbor, who said to him, '^Why, Mr. Rose, you mourn 
for your ox more than Job did for the loss of all of his; " 
whereupon the afflicted man replied that '*' Job never had 
so likely an ox ! " The cove is now distinguished as a land- 
ing for fishermen, where they draw up their boats above 
the tide" and seas, and where they have a few fish-houses. 

Cooneymus is the name of the place where the West 
Side Life Station is located. It seems to be an Indian 
name. It is here spelled according to pronunciation, as 
the writer has never seen it written or printed, and in 
answer to inquiries how to spell it, he is informed that 
probably "it never was spelled." It is a very convenient 
shore for hauling up the boats of fishermen, as at Dorry's 
Cove, and is a well selected spot for the station from 
which men patrol the shores in each direction. 

The Palatine graves are on the West Side. They are on 
the land owned by Mr. Jeremiah C. Rose, and are found 
by strangers most readily by going south from the Center 
until the first right-hand road is reached, thence by that 
to the gate of Samuel Allen, Esq., and thence to the 
house of Mr. Raymond Dickens. From his house it is 
but a few steps to said graves, and the old foundations 
of the ancient Simon Ray house, and Mr. Ray's deep old 
well are also near the house of Mr. Dickens. Indeed 
native timbers that were once in Mr. Ray's house are now 
doing good service in the house of Mr. Dickens, who. 


during fifty years had an eye frequently upon the old 
dancing mortar mentioned in another place. 

The Bluff scenery of the West Side, in some respects 
excels, especially that at the southern extremity. From 
it the vessels of the Sound, those "outside," Montauk, 
Long Island, and the Connecticut shore are conspicuous. 
Sites for summer residences, in time, will be selected, no 
doubt, upon the sightly points of the West Side, roads to 
which could be made with but little expense. The land 
is cheap. 

Beacon Hill is the most conspicuous point on the West 
Side. It is the highest land upon the Island, and is 
nearly west from the Center. Its name originated from 
the beacon placed upon it in the Revolution, to warn the 
Islanders of the approach of the refugees. In making 
coast surveys, a beacon on this hill has been of service. 
It is visited by many strangers in the summer for the 
splendid view there obtained. From its summit the en- 
circling waters are seen except at one small point at the 
southeast, and the whole Island is spread out into a beau- 
tiful landscape of a thousand hills and hundreds of ponds, 
most of which are hid from the spectator, as they are in 
the little indentations between the hills. Beacon Hill is 
visited both on foot, and in carriages, by ladies and gen- 
tlemen. From it, in a clear atmosphere, distant views 
over Long Island, into Connecticut and Rhode Island, 
and in the direction of Cape Cod are obtained with a good 
glass. Access to it heretofore has always been free, by 
the kindness of the owner, Mr. William Dodge, but the 
increased number of visitors, and the trouble they have 
made him by opening his fence, and the damage to his 
field will justify him in future in making a small charge 
for admission. The hill is about three hundred feet high. 

Mohegan Bluffs proper, belongs to the West Side accord- 
ing to tradition. It is the high point next to the sea 


where the Mohegan warriors were penned up and starved 
by the Manisseans. The former in coming to the Island 
would naturally land on the West Side, at Grace's Cove, 
Dorry's Cove, or Cooneymus, as the "Moheague country " 
was lying to the northwest of the Island. Soon after 
they landed, Niles says, the Manisseans "drove them to 
the oirposite part of the Island, where, I suppose, the cliffs 
next the sea are near, if not more than two hundred feet 
high." This account seems to locate Mohegan Bluff near 
the new light-house. But as a compromise the name may 
weU apply to the entire bluff range across the south end 
of the Island. ''Bluff" is more appropriate than " Cliff," 
as there are no rocks. 


East and West are correlative terms, designating points 
that may be the farthest possible from, or the nearest pos- 
sible to each other. Indeed, in respect of direction they 
contradict the philosophical dogma that no two objects 
can occupy the same space at the same time. To this fine 
point, however, it is not our intention to reduce the two 
sides of Block Island. They differ, and yet are parts of 
a unit. 

On the East Side the natural attractions are varied. 
The Bathing Beach is not only a place of pleasure, but also 
of study. The mineralogist may there find a field for 
thinking. Anciently that beach was more bold. Banks 
twenty-five feet high covered with grass, and unbroken, 
save in one or two narrow gullies, stretched from Clay 
Head nearly to the Old Pier. The foot of that low bluff 
was bathed winter and summer by the rising and falhng 
tides, and by the dashing spray of the storms from the 
east. Mrs. Margaret Dodge, now eighty-six years old, 
recollects well her sports in childhood with other children 
along that steep bank next to the sea, up which it was 


difficult for them to climb, it was so steep and sandy. 
When they could not leave the beach and climb up the 
bank, they reached the latter place by going to the little 
deep cut in the bank through which they ascended. Now 
that bank has all disappeared, and a few sand-hills in the 
back-ground remain as relics and monuments of a former 
period. That bank has been carried away principally by 
the strong winds of winter, which have moved its sand 
as though it were snow. The millions of tons thus moved 
in twenty-four hours, if stated, would be incredible. 
Imagine a thin sheet of sand drifting past your feet like 
water gliding over a smooth surface, and then look upon 
a surface a mile in length and a quarter of a mile in 
breadth, thus moving to the sea whose receding waves 
and surf carry ofP the sand as fast as it is deposited. 
Such has been nature's process of making the bathing 
beach from the fine sand of the once beautiful bank that 
bordered the bay of Block Island. 

The Black Sand of the bathing beach has attracted 
considerable attention. It was once a part of the bould- 
ers which nature ground up to sand in some of her great 
mills or mortars long ago. After that it was commingled 
with the common sand of the Island. It is iron, too 
heavy to be blown oif into the sea and drifted about, and 
hence it remains forsaken by its old comrades of ^'little 
grains of sand." Several acres of this, very fine, and 
containing a large percentage of iron, are covered by a 
lease in the hands of a New York party who contemplated 
shipping it to some foundry. Much of the northerly part 
of the bed has sand very beautiful under the microscope, 
which reveals particles resembling jasper, amber, and dia- 
mond. Before the invention of blotting-paper this sand 
was sold quite extensively for sand-boxes, and one of the 
Islanders made quite a business of it. 

The bathing beach thus beautifully constructed by 

THE EAST side; 169 

nature is one of the chief attractions of Block Island. 

The sand is fine, clean, and compact, and unless disturbed 

by some unusual storm, its descent into the sea is gentle, 

and the surf is moderate, yet sufficient to produce the 

desired excitement for the bathers. There the words are 

verified : 

" On smoother beaches no sea birds light, 
No blue waves shatter to foam move white." 

It is near enough to all of the hotels of the Island, for 
while it is a source of health and pleasure its scenery of 
little houses, queer dresses, and unusual positions and 
movements should be somewhat retired from the more 
refined associations of the piazza, the dining-room, and the 
parlor. A little walk, or a longer ride before and after 
bathing adds to its enjoyment, and carriages are readily 
obtained when desired. The ox-team of two yokes 
attached to the great wagon from the Ocean View, with 
the colored man Jack, a descendant from the Palatine, for 
driver, will not soon be forgotten by the ladies and gentle- 
men who thus rode to the beach, all attired for a bath so 
grotesquely that one hardly knew the other. 

The Harloi\ a historical sketch of which is given else- 
where, is the most important place on the East Side. 
There, after an effort of centuries, a safe and permanent 
protection to vessels has recently been secured. There 
the first steamboat wharf of the Island was established. 
There the treasures of the deep have been landed for the 
support of many generations. There the old fishermen 
see to-day relics of the past, in the shape of large casks, 
that remind him of remote ancestors. There, from child- 
hood, he has gone up and down the bank in the steps of 
his forefathers, has counted and dressed his fish as they 
did, has carried them to the fish-house and salted them as 
they did, and thence has wended his weary way home- 
ward to eat and sleep under the roofs and by the firesides 


which they erected. "When an old man now can no 
longer "go to the Harbor," his earthly enjoyments are 
considered very limited, and his work about finished, 
When they could go there, they needed not the excite- 
ment of the theater, the saloon, the club-room, and the 
rat-pits of cities, nor of the American race-course, nor of 
the bull-fights of Spain; for at the Harbor, each fall and 
spring, and occasionally in winter and summer, scenes a 
hundred-fold more exciting than the gay regatta sailing 
fancifully for a cup of gold, were witnessed by the Block 
Islanders, as fathers and brothers repeatedly stood there 
and watched their dearest kindred far out on the sea 
struggling in the tempest against wind and tide, to gain 
the shore in their little open boats. Not cups of gold, but 
lives were there at stake, when the tumbling billows tossed 
those boats here and there with the white foam until by 
wonderful skill the harbor was gained, and that, too, 
sometimes anciently by selecting the biggest of the " three 
brothers," and coming ashore high and dry on his back. 
To do this is one of the most dangerous and skillful trieks 
of the seaman, for to get in advance, or to be too far back 
of this highest wave, would almost surely swamp his boat 
in the surf and drowning would follow. Such exciting 
scenes, where so many hearts have been pained with 
anxiety, and then thrilled with rejoicing over kindred 
safely landed, have made the Harbor a place of dearest 
associations in the memories of the Islanders. The 
hotels at the Harbor are mentioned in another place. 

The Shores of the East Side do not differ materially 
from those on the West Side. They have sightly points, 
ravines, and coves, and bowlders suitably distributed to 
make a border of pleasing variety. 

The Old Harbor Landing^ about midway from the Ocean 
View to the Mohegan Bluffs, is one of the old landmarks 
of Block Island passing into oblivion. It was once a 


place of similar note to that of Cooneymus on the West 
Side. It obtained some distinction from a wreck which 
occurred there many years ago, and also for the drowning 
there of a galley of refugees, nine in number. It is adja- 
cent to Old Harbor Point. 

The land rises gradually from the National Harbor to 
the south end of the Island where the highest and most 
picturesque bluffs are to be seen. They can hardly be 
c&lled grand by one who has sailed from St. Paul down 
the Mississippi to Prairie du Chien, or has stood at Omaha 
and looked across the plain to Council Bluffs, or has 
looked from the dizzy heights of the Yosemite, but they 
will justify many of the eulogies which they have received. 
To gain a full impression of their power the visitor must 
stand on their brows and gaze far out upon the sea, and 
also at their feet by the water's edge and look up to those 
frowning brows, a wink from which might be more dan- 
gerous to the spectator than was the nod of Jupiter's head 
on high Olympus. 

The New Light-House is one of the noted objects of the 
East Side, of which special mention is made elsewhere. 
The greater advantage of its having been located on the 
West Side on a high bluff at the south end, will be dis- 
cussed as long as the greater number of wrecks continue 
to occur at this latter place. Vessels coming from the 
south, after passing Montauk, fall into a dangerous current 
that passes between Montauk and Block Island, and are 
thus carried from their course and wrecked on the latter 
for want of light and a fog-signal on the southwesterly 
part of the Island. Three valuable vessels have been 
wrecked there since the new light-house was erected, but 
wrecks have hardly ever occurred near said light -house. 



This is the northerly part of Block Island, and contains 
abont one thousand acres. The soil is naturally produc- 
tive, with more clay at bottom than elsewhere on the 
Island. No doubt it took its name from the great amount 
of corn which it produced, both for the natives and for 
the subsequent settlers. For many years after the set- 
tlers came they designated it by the above name, which 
is now shortened by dropping the "Corn," and calHng it 
simply "The Neck." But the original name seems the 
more appropriate, distinguishing that part more clearly 
from the Harbor Neck, and Indian Head Neck. It is 
naturally separated from the main part of the Island by 
the small pond that nearly connects the ocean on the east 
with the south end of the Great Pond, or by a line run- 
ning nearly east and west, and passing across the south 
end of the Great Pond a little north of Samuel Mott's 

In 1689 the town, as a body, occupied and controlled 
the Corn Neck, as seen by an act then passed as follows: 
-'That all the cattle shall be brought out of the 'Corne 
Neck ' yearly, at or before the first of May, only working 
oxen to remain until the 10th." In a still older record, 
dated Nov., 1676, the town council ordered all the swine 
to be removed from the Corn Neck by the 10th of Dec, 
and any man had liberty to kill those not " fetched out " 
by that date specified. This also indicates that this part 
of the Island was not inhabited. 

In October, 1692, a similar ordinance was passed, re- 
quiring their removal by the 21st of that month on a 
penalty of " two shillings and sixpence for the first defecte, 
and for the second defecte five shillings." At that time 
there was probably a town fence separating the Corn 
Neck from the main part of the Island, as such a fence 
certainly existed in 1705. It was about ninety-six rods 


long, was maintained by all who owned land on said 
Neck, and was spoken of as ^'against the Corne Neck." 
This fence was so nicely apportioned for maintenance by 
the proprietors of the Island that it was divided off to 
each man interested by rods, feet, and inches. 

It seems quite certain from the above facts that there 
were no inhabitants on the Corn Neck for the first forty 
or fifty years after Block Island was settled. Thomas 
Terry, some time after the settlement, lived on Indian 
Head Neck, and he was there "remote from the other 
English inhabitants," who, in 1756, with the exception of 
two or three families, were all within two and a half 
miles of the meeting-house at the Fresh Pond. The first 
indications v^^hich we have of settlers on the Neck is the 
record of the laying out of a road there in April, 1707. 
As that record is instructive on several points it is here 
given verbatim. 

'•'■For the convenience and 'privilege of the Queen'' s Majesties 

" Therefore we, the authority and town council on this 
instant have ordered and determined that there shall be 
forthwith a highway of forty feet in breadth laid out 
through the undivided lands, beginning at the old high- 
way from Charlestown fenc6 holding the breadth of forty 
feet and so running to Sandy Point and from Sandy Point 
to Captain Edward Sands' bars, and from the pond by the 
end of the land of Nathaniel Dickins, deceased, from thence 
to the harbor, which highway to remain and continue a 
public highway free and clear from fence, bars, or gates, 
being made across said highway, only the fence by the 
harbor to stand, and also the fence at Charlestown likewise 
to stand." 

In 1812, during the war with England, there were 
prominent famihes on the Neck, such as Ray Thomas 
Sands, who lived where Mr. George Sheffield now resides, 


and Mr. John Gorton, commonly known as " Governor 
Gorton," who lived where Mr. John G. SheflQeld's resi- 
dence stands. It is now thickly populated by an intelli- 
gent, enterprising, and moral class of citizens, who have 
a good school-house, in which they hold religious meetings 
a considerable portion of each year. They carry on 
farming successfully, and secure considerable income from 
their pound fisheries. 

Clay Head^ is the most prominent part of the Neck, 
and is conspicuous for its high bluffs as seen by the spec- 
tator approaching the Island from Newport. On those 
bluffs aire sightly and beautiful locations for summer resi- 
dences. Its clay is of three qualities, mainly blue, other 
red, and some v/hite, and it seems a pity that such beauti- 
ful material is not utilized. 

A note should here be made of a phenomenon at Clay 
Head in the winter of 1876-7. Its first appearance was 
in Sept., 1876, soon after a smart shock of an earthquake 
in the night. Near the edge of the high bluff on Mr. 
John Hayes' land was a cart road where sea-weed had 
been carted many years. Soon after said shock a fissure 
an inch wide, about one hundred feet long, ten feet from 
the edge of said high bluff, was seen, and instead of an 
avalanche, that earth outside of the fissure, including the 
cart track, began to settle down perpendicularly, settling 
some days nearly a foot, and this settling has continued 
until the broken-oft' mass 100 feet long and 10 feet wide 
has gone down 15 feet, leaving a perpendicular bank 
mostly of sand intermingled with clay. That mass is 
settling daily, March 16, 1877. Why, or how it can set- 
tle perpendicularly is mysterious. Is there a portion of 
the Island sinking ? Has a cavern been forming there by 
the escape of clay or quicksand ? A larger portion of 
Mohegan Bluff has settled similarly. Has there been a 
crushing of coral beneath the Island ? Native coral has 


been found on the east, and on the west shores. The 
diminution of the Island is rapid in some places. 

Sandy Point is the extreme north end of the Neck. 
On the extremity of the Point was anciently a peninsula 
called the Huramuck. It was an elevation of land on 
which small trees and bushes grew, and at low-tide was 
reached on foot. The old inhabitants now speak of hav- 
ing gathered wild plums there. It was washed away long 
ago. The Point as a sand-bar, extends several miles from 
the Island, and is a waymark for sailors. 

Chagum Pond, is a part of the Neck, and is distinguished 
as the place where the English vessels in times of war 
got their fresh water. It is supplied from the sound, and 
by filtering through the sand, from the sound to the pond, 
the water becomes fresh. 


Here the people from all parts of the Island frequently 
come for various purposes. Here the greater part of the 
local trading is done, at the three stores, two of which 
are at the four corners, and the other but a little distance 
north. Hither most of the sea-moss is brought from the 
west shores, and here the West Side fishermen market 
their fish, and here the greater part of the poultry, butter 
and cheese, eggs, and much of the oil find a market. Here 
the town council meet and the town elections are held at 
the town hall. Here, too, the Baptist church is located, 
which can seat three hundred, leaving over one hundred 
of its members outside, were all to assemble there at one 
time. At the Center the first high school of the Island 
has been conducted successfully over a year by Mr. A. 
W. Brown. 

The Center is the least bleak in appearance of any part 
of the Island. Mr. Lorenzo Littlefield's fine residence, 
adorned with ornamental trees, walks, shrubs and flowers, 


and productive fruit trees, is an ornament to the Island, 
which it is hoped others will imitate. His pond of full- 
blooded wild geese should be seen by visitors. Hon. Ray 
S. Little'field's new two-story, French-roof house also 
adds to the impro^ang appearance of the Center. Mr. 
Alvin Sprague's enlarged and modernized store, accom- 
modating a family in the upper part, adds much to the 
improved appearance of the Center. The wall about the 
Church lot, and the grading of the Church grounds in 
1875, materially changed the pasture-like appearance in 
front of the house where, during seventeen winters, so 
many slipped and fell after meeting. Nor should the 
new blacksmith shop at the Center, built in 1875, be over- 
looked — built by Mr. R. B. Xegus, and used for a paint 
shop by Mr. Andrew Dodge, in the summer of 1876 — 
the first paint shop on the Island. There many old car- 
riages were made new in appearance. One of the best of 
common schools is also kept at the Center, lacking only a 
new house, soon to be had, doubtless. 

The Block Island Cemetery is near the Center, at the 
north of it, and on an elevation that overlooks much of 
the East Side, the Corn Neck,* and the waters at the north 
and east. Its centenary graves, the multitude of others 
with their brown -stone, slate, and marble monuments, 
and its perfect destitution of tree or shrub, in an enclosure 
of about ten acres, render it an object of interest to 
strangers. An imposing monument, in the highest part 
where are the remains of the ancient Rays, and Sandses, 
and others should be erected in honor of the first settlers 
whose record there is now hardly legible. 


The Pound. 

This important keeper of the peace as well as of stray 
cattle claims a brief notice, for it has doubtless prevented 
many a feud between neighbors by keeping their animals 
from trespassing. The following is a record of the first 
pound upon Block Island. 

"At a meeting at the hous of Mr. Simon Ray, Sr., 
October 14, 1701, the being greatly sensible of the greate 
want of a common pound, wee the wardin and town 
counsell with the rest of the free inhabitants of New 
Shorum have concluded and agreed upon that there shall 
be a comon pound erected of thurty futs square sefesiant 
of seven futs high with a good sefesiant gate fit to pas 
and Repas out and in with a sefesiant lock and kee, and 
to be erected and fenced by the last of November next 
insuing the date hereof and to be placed neere to William 
Daudge's new dwelling house, and the charge to be leved 
by proporshon of a rate by the hole estate of said Island." 
"Entered according to Ordur pr 


Town Clerk." 

Its location was near the north end of Fresh Pond. It 
was in bad proportion, its walls being nearly one-fourth 
as high as they were long, and it was found to be too 
small, and consequently, in 1707, another was erected, in 
place of the former, forty feet square, six feet high, at a 
cost of £7. In 1708, the keeper received two pence " pr 


head for turning the key." The same fee was continued 
in 1709. 

The pound regulations in 1714 were very strict and 
minute. The keeper's fees were sixpence for the ad- 
mission of a horse or cow. About the year 1860 the 
present pound was built at the Center, near the church, 
where it is too likely to remain. Mr. Rathbone Littlefield 
made it useful in the summer of 1876. 


In 1693, at a town meeting, an act was passed by which 
a bounty on crows was estabhshed. They were desig- 
nated as "crows or ravens," and were doubtless then here, 
as they have been elsewhere, very destructive to the corn 
crop as it sprang up soon after planting. The bounty was 
sixpence each for the heads exhibited to the town treas- 
urer between the first of January and the middle of June 
following. Very respectable names appear among the 
sportsmen and claimants of bounties. Over ninety crows 
were killed that season. 

From their abundance on the Island at the season of 
nesting, those acquainted with their habits could safely 
infer the existence here then of forest timber, for they 
nest only in forests of large trees. 

In 1717, a bounty on blackbirds was established. 
Either because their heads were less destructive, or 
because they were more" numerous and easily obtained, 
it required twelve of their heads to draw as much from 
the treasury as did one crow's head, the bounty on them 
being only half a penny each. No crows trouble the corn 
fields here now, since no trees for nesting remain. Black- 
birds are abundant still. 



It is doubtful whether another territory can be named 
in our country, of equal size with Block Island, where so 
much poultry is produced, and so many eggs are first 
marketed, as here. No better facilities for raising geese, 
ducks, hens, and turkeys could be desired. Hardly* a 
farm is so small as to be destitute of one or more little 
ponds. The fields furnish ample range for all, and the 
women and children excel in raising the young for the 
early market, and for the Thanksgiving and Christmas 
demands. Hardly a family is so over-nice as to exclude 
from its firesides in the 'chilly days of March and April 
the tender brood in the comfortable basket. There the 
visitor may hear notes quite as musical to the Islander as 
are the sharp warblings of the canary to others whose pets 
only please the eye and the ear. 

The Eggs that are exported from the Island may be 
estimated at an amount not less than twenty-five thousand 
dozen annually. 

The dressed and live poultry exported and consumed at 
the Island hotels amounts to more that twenty-five tons 
annually. Mr. Lorenzo Littlefield has had on hand at a 
time 1,000 geese; at another 1,000 turkeys. 


An Island law requiring sheep to be marked, and the 
owner's mark to be registered in the town clerk's office 
was enforced in 1680; e. g., ^^ John NiJes his Mark. A 
cropp off ye right ear and a hapenny under (ye cropp to 
be high upon ye eare) : a slitt in ye left ear and hapenny 


In 1696, many sheep ran at large on the Island a part 
of the year, and an act was passed by the town requiring 
them to be folded, or to be put into the "common pen,'' 


each night, probably for safety, on account of the Indians, 
and this rule was enforced by a penalty of £5. Goats 
were then kept upon Block Island. 

The Island is well adapted to the raising of sheep, and 
in 1776, as well as at the present time' some farms were 
well stocked with them. They are mostly of the larger 
kind, with wool not the finest. The January and Febru- 
ary lambs become very large for early market. The sheep 
are remarkable for the number of lambs which they raise. 
In the spring of 1875, five ewes belonging to Edward 
Mott raised ten lambs, three having twins, one having 
a triplet, and another having one. About the year 1700 
many sheep and lambs were taken from here to New York. 


About eighty years ago a small vessel anchored in Cow 
Cove, and from it three men came ashore. They entered 
the carriage road that leads from Sandy Point to the Har- 
bor, and after proceeding some distance, stopped and com- 
menced digging in the middle of the road. This was 
towards evening, and as they were strangers the Islanders 
viewed them only at a distance. During the night they 
disappeared. The next morning Mr. Isaiah Ball went to 
the place named in the road, and there discovered that 
they had dug up an earthen pot that held about eight 
quarts. Suspecting that it had contained money, Mr. Ball 
moved the fresh earth about with his hands until he found 
a piece of silver of the value of ten cents. This coin has 
been examined by one skilled in numismatics, and by him 
is described as '^Spanish Cob Money, issued by a Bourbon 
family of Spain, previous to 1753, in the eighteenth cen- 
tury." Its date seems to be given in the Roman and 
Arabic numerals, thus : M 94. This coin is in the pos. 
session of Mr. Lorenzo Littlefield, and was presented to 


him by Mr. John S. Ball, the son of the said Isaiah Ball 
who related the above circumstances to the said donor. 

There has been considerable effort by the Islanders to 
find hidden treasures on their shores. Marvelous stories 
have been told of sights seen, and of sounds heard while 
prospecting for the imagined pots of gold and silver. 
These stories have served well as scape-goats for the follies 
of those who have wasted time and strength in searching 
at random for what is only imaginary, while the legitimate 
pursuits of gain have been neglected. 


Christmas had visited the Christian people of Block 
Island m.ore than two hundred times before its children 
were cheered with the presence of a Christmas tree. The 
first one ever seen here was in the winter of 1875, brought 
by the pastor of the First Baptist Church from his home 
in Bridgewater, Mass. It was a beautiful fir, one of his 
ornamental trees, at the roots of which he laid his axe 
for the sake of the pleasure and good it might afford the 
children of Block Island. It was placed in front of the 
pulpit, and rose to the wall above. The ladies adorned it 
finely with stars, tapers, and presents. The burning tapers 
on its branches, the glittering stars in the evening, and 
the gifts on it and under it, produced a fine effect, and 
gave a happy expression to many bright young faces. 
That tree was well planted in the memory of the chil- 
dren, most of whom had never seen a fir tree before. It 
also attached them to the Sabbath school to which it was 


The houses of Block Island have their peculiarities. 

Those built by the inhabitants are all wood, with one 

exception; that is stone. They are of convenient size on 

the ground, but why they are so low it is not easy to 



ascertain. But a very few are over one and a half stories 
high, and the one story is much lower than usual in such 
houses. Perhaps there has been a precaution against their 
being blown over by the strong winds. They are mostly 
shingled on the sides, as this covering endures the storms 
best. They are nearly all white, and newspaper and mag- 
azine writers have reported them 'painted, when in truth 
not one in twenty was painted. They were luhitewashed^ 
and this is done annually, in the spring, and thus the 
houses are well preserved. 

The inside structures indicate economy. The rooms are 
so numerous that they are necessarily small. They are 
plastered, mainly, and papered with bright colors and 
showy figures. Almost every family has more or less of 
papering and inside whitewashing each spring. The 
doors, cupboards, and what ceihngs there are have uni- 
form colors, either blue or green, with few exceptions. 
They are generally comfortable. 

The location of the houses arrests the attention of the 
observing. They are scattered so much that at no place 
can there properly be said to be a village on the Island. 
Nearly all are connected with farms ranging from one 
acre up to three hundred. They are most densely located 
at the Harbor, but not more numerous, perhaps, than in the 
vicinity of the Center. Nearly all, too, are so located as 
to have an extensive view of the sea, and from their 
windows and doors, the departure and arrival of vessels 
are studiously observed, and generally with telescopes that 
cost about ten dollars each. It might be well for some 
visitors to remember these far-seeing instruments, espe- 
cially at the bathing beach. 

A few dw^elling-houses of good taste have been erected 
during the past few years on the Island. Mr. Darius 
Dodge's Gothic cottage near the Harbor, Mr. Aaron Mitch- 
ell's, and others, and Mr. Noah Dodge's soon to be com- 


pleted, and the best, are an improvement on the older 
houses, and these will soon be excelled by others, prob- 

Flower-gardens are a recent ornament to the grounds 
about the houses. Mrs. Lorenzo Littlefield's at the Center, 
is very attractive in summer, and silently reminds the 
Islanders of the fact that God makes flowers to be seen 
as well as fish and vegetables to be eaten, and that Adam 
and Eve were first placed in a garden and commanded to 
'^ dress it and to keep it." 


It would be difficult to tell how many stores there are 
upon the Island if we were to enumerate all the places 
where a little tea, tobacco, and candy are sold, and a few 
eggs and fowls are bought. But there are five dealers 
who have stores, properly so called. At the Harbor where 
the post-ofiice is kept, the firm of Ball & Willis has 
done a thriving business ; on Paine street, Mr. J. T. Dodge 
is doing likewise, while Messrs. Lorenzo Littlefield, Alvin 
Sprague, and Wm. P. Ball are buying and selling largely 
at the Center, each in his own store. If any doubt that 
all of these five merchants are models of patience and 
business tact, they have only to observe the endless rou- 
tine of barter to which they are subjected in order to 
realize any profits in money. A boy with a hen under 
each arm; a woman with a bag of sea-moss; a farmer 
with a cart-load of dressed turkeys; a one-horse wagon 
with cheese and butter; another with jugs of fish-oil; tons 
of cod-fish; bundles of paper-rags; old junk; potatoes 
and oats; and frequently a child with an egg in each 
hand; these are daily customers and commodities that 
keep up a large mercantile business in dry-goods and 
groceries and a few fancy articles, amounting in all to 
about one hundred thousand dollars annually. 



The improved roads of Block Island naturally became 
an inducement for better carriages. The need of any 
better than the cart for oxen has been felt here but 
recently. The distances were short, and easily walked by 
the active men and vigorous women. It is within the 
memory of the older inhabitants that the first wagon was 
owned upon the Island. Mr. Ray Thomas Sands is said 
to have introduced that improvement, an article then new 
to the eyes of many, for people did not travel abroad then 
as now. Indeed, there are those now upon the Island 
who were never beyond its shores, and one of them told 
the writer that she was " just as well off as if she had 
been on the main, and now she was so old she never 
wanted to go away." In the year 1875, there was but 
one span of horses frequently driven here, that of Mr. 
Hamilton Ball, Mr. Lorenzo Littlefield having driven a 
span previous to 1875. Single carriages, however, had then 
become quite numerous, and about sixty were counted at 
the funeral of Mrs. Frederick Rose in the summer of 1875. 
At the present time fashionable buggies are quite com- 
mon, and there are a few good carryalls. That of Mr. 
John G. Sheffield will be remembered by the children as 
one of the first of their knowledge. In the summer of 
1876, covered carriages were frequently seen going to 
noted points of the Island, and the visitors at the hotels 
for the £rst time here had ample accommodations of car- 
riages. Mr. Howard Mott then opened the first livery 
stable of Block Island, kept at the Ocean View. Many 
who are now in childhood will remember how much atten- 
tion Mr. Mott's barouche attracted, as part of its occu- 
pants rode backwards so indifferent to the horses and 
driver. They will remember, too, how odd it looked, on 
"steamboat days," to see one seat, two seat, open and 
covered buggies, and two-horse carriages thickly stationed 


around the Harbor, with ''To Let," pasted on some of 
them, and all waiting for passengers to the various hotels 
and to different parts of the Island. All of this took 
place, for the first time, two hundred and fourteen years 
after the first settlers landed and saw no other houses than 
the wigwams of the Manisseans. 

The ox-cart is still the principal vehicle for business. 
One man is making his mark in the memories of the ris- 
ing generation, not only by his singing, but by the one 
animal, which became an ox when he was several years 
old, and which the owner prides, or humbles himself in 
driving in thills attached to a short wooden yoke on the 
animal's neck. He is tolerably well represented in Har- 
per's Magazine for July, 1876, except as his horns there 
are a little too upright and delicate. 

The olden time for horse-back parties is gone for ever. 
Nice buggies and carriages have superseded the saddle, 
except as it is used occasionally by men and boys. The 
old side-saddles may now be seen in barns and sheds 
gathering dust and rust.- These are steamboat times; no 
fears of the railroad on Block Island. 


For two hundred years the inhabitants of Block 
Island enjoyed the principal luxuries, or perhaps it should 
be said necessaries of life without having the trouble and 
expense of making one mile of turnpike, or graded car- 
riage track. There was hardly any use for them — no 
market, no factories, no commerce to require any amount 
of teaming, and no special desire to ride in carriages, not 
enough certainly to stimulate the people to the construc- 
tion of roads. As a cart and an ox-team could go anywhere, 
and as no wagons were in use, lanes here and there, and 
cart tracks across the meadows and pastures answered 
every purpose. If there were gates to open, and bars, 


and fences to be taken down, what mattered ? Nobody- 
was in a hurry. "Time enough," the last words said 
now, as one leaves his neighbor's house, where he is urged 
to stay longer, seems to have been then the motto on the 
cart and oxen, on the rough roads, on the hand-cards, 
and spinning-wheels — yes ^Hime enough'''' sfj 2,% one of the 
rich possessions of those days too soon forgotten. 

The roads, such as they were, the lanes, the bridle and 
foot-paths of the Island, until within a few years, may be 
illustrated by the threads of a large, circular spider's web. 
A s such, especially in winter, they may be seen to-day. 
Fifty years ago the only mode of riding faster than the 
slow pace of oxen was on horseback. The principal roads 
then, and previously, were those that cross each other at 
the Center, at right angles; the one extending from the 
Harbor to the west beach, and the other from the south 
end of the Great Pond to the Fresh Pond, and thence to 
the southerly and southwesterly parts of the Island; and 
also the road from Sandy Point to the Harbor, and the 
one thence to the vicinity of th^ new light-house. Many 
houses are still inaccessible, except by lanes and gates. 
There is no public road to said light-house, while one is 
greatly needed for the accommodation of citizens, and for 
the pleasure of summer visitors who desire so much to 
see the bluffs on which the light house is located. 

During the two years of 1875 and 1876, more expense, 
and more improvements were made upon the roads of 
Block Island than had been made upon them during the 
previous two hundred years. They were widened and 
straightened by removing long stretches of stone wall, 
and were graded, sluiced, guttered, and freed from stones. 
They are now inviting to the carriages of visitors, and 
furnish beautiful drives for landscape and ocean scenery. 
The Islanders, too, have, for the first time, learned the value 
of good roads in time-saving, in the greater loads drawn, 


saving the wear and tear of wheels, and in the comfort of 
riding. There is still room for improvement. No one 
can imagine how much better the roads are now than 
they were three years ago, unless he then saw them so 
narrow in places that teams could not pass each other, 
with numerous hills as sharp as house roofs, and with 
mud and water that had to be forded, while the wheels 
were jolting over little bowlders almost constantly. 


For two hundred years this has been one of the pleas- 
ures and necessities of this Island. Twenty years ago 
Mr. Henry T. Beckv/itli, in his excellent historical sketch 
of Block Island, said: "The people are fond of horse- 
manship, and raise excellent saddle-horses for the purpose. 
I saw one afternoon at the close of the day a party of a 
dozen of them, young men and women, starting out for 
a moonlight ride. The women also go a-shopping and 
visiting in this way, though not so absurdly arrayed as 
ours are with dresses which almost reach the ground 
when they are upon the horse, and impede them when 
they get off so that they cannot walk. Twenty years ago 
[in 1830] this was the only mode of riding, and some of 
the roads are now better adapted for it than for any 
vehicle, but open wagons have been introduced to a con- 
siderable extent. There is but one covered vehicle on the 
Island, a chaise owned by the doctor." On horseback 
was the only riding for speed or pleasure until recently. 

In this manner the Islanders in olden times enjoyed as 
merry hearts as ever graced the costliest vehicle. Riding 
parties were frequently had when the young men and 
maidens vied with each other in horsemanship. Fine 
horses, good saddles for both sexes, and winding roads 
and paths animated by fifty horses and riders, some with 
continental light breeches and stockings adorned with 



bright knee-buckles, others in gracefully flowing riding 
dresses of home manufacture, and all with health, vigor, 
and cheerful spirits galoping around the hills, through 
the ravines, sometimes two abreast and racing, then trail- 
ing in single file, jumping fences and leaping ditches, 
with merry laughs and shouts that no one was afraid to 
utter, and at last all coming to a halt and dismounting at 
the house designated, where the well-furnished table and 
the fiddler were in waiting for a pleasant evening in No- 
vember, were some of the enjoyments over the ancient 
highways of Block Island. If a horse for each of the 
party was not convenient, there were saddles with " pil- 
lions," and on one of these the fair one rode while her 
reinsman rode in front, and although their faces were not 
then vis a vis as ladies and gentlemen are now seen in 
their fine carriages, yet their voices and feelings were 
none the less happy, except when, in the time of haunted 
houses, frightful ghosts gave them a race in the night 
like that of Tarn O'Shanter^s gray mare. 


The following may be considered a nearly accurate 
statement of the population of the Island from its settle- 
ment, at different periods, to the present year, 1876. 














Negroes 20 




" 30 




'< 40 






















" 45 









Indians. Negroes 43 




u a 46 








u u 45 








<' '^ 28 




^' 30 




a (( 





Hon. Ray S. Littlefield, Senator. 
Hon. J. T. Dodge, Assemblyman. 
William P. Lewis, First Warden. 
Almanzo Littlefield, Second Warden. 
George Jelly, Third Warden. 
Ambrose N. Rose, Town Clerk. 
Jeremiah C. Rose, Town Sergeant. 


Marcus M. Day, Ambrose N. Rose, Edward H. Champ- 
lin, William P. Lewis, George J. Sheffield. 

WilHam P. Lewis, Chairman of all the town, and Town 
Council meetings. 

Masonic Lodge. 

The Atlantic Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, of Block 
Island, was constituted July 12, 1876, with a new and 
commodious hall at that time first occupied. 

Odd Fellows. 

In August, 1872, Messrs. Nicholas Ball, George Jelly, 

Horatio N. Milikin, Frederick A. Rose, George A. Rose, 

John G. Sheffield, Joseph H. Wilhs, rLorenzo Littlefield, 

Ray S. Littlefield, and Aaron Mitchell, withdrew from 


Ehode Island Lodge No. 12, and were organized into the 
Neptune Lodge, No. 26, of Block Island, and duly received 
its charter from the G-rand Lodge. It now has forty 
members, and its hall is at the Center. 


The first, and, perhaps, the most noted physician of 
Block Island was Mrs. Sarah Sands, the wife of Capt. 
James Sands, An account of her is given in connection 
with the biographical sketch of her husband. Her skill 
in medicine and surgery, in 1680, and also in years pre- 
vious and subsequent, was extraordinary. 

Dr. John Rodman was a physician of the Island in 1689, 
and is described by an intimate acquaintance. Rev. Sam- 
uel Niles, as being " a gentleman of great ingenuity, and 
of an affable, engaging behavior, of the profession of 
them called Quakers. He also kept a meeting in his 
house on the Sabbaths, with exhortations unto good 
works, after the manner of the teachers in that society, 
but more agreeably than I suppose is common with them, 
whose meetings I had attended in my younger time." 

Dr. James Sweete was a resident, and successor of Dr. 
Rodman, in 1717. Our knowledge of him is very limited. 
He was kidnapped in the Bay, on the 18th of April, 1717, 
together with Thomas Daniels, and William Tosh, myste- 
riously by a foreign vessel, as described in the article on 

Dr. Aaron C. Willey was the Island physician in 1811, 
and a literary correspondent of some distinction. His 
relatives are still here, and are highly esteemed citizens. 
He was much respected at home and abroad for his med- 
ical skill and general knowledge. His account of the 
'* Palatine Light" is the most sensible one given of that 
once attractive but* now extinct phenomenon. His de- 


scription of it is given under the head of Wrecks and 

Drs. Philips, Bowen, Angell, Woodruff, Buttrick, Mar- 
yott, Mann, and Tucker belong to the medical succession 
on Block Island. As a physician. Dr. J. T. Mann ob 
tained an enviable distinction for skill in the treatment of 
fevers especially, and for his light charges. It was with 
much regret that many of the Islanders parted with him 
and his genial family for any one that might become his 
successor. The writer has but a slight acquaintance with 
either of his predecessors, or his successors. 


Gentlemen of the legal profession can safely file the 
plea of an alihi to all the peace and discord of Block 
Island. Only as foreigners to the Island have they had 
any thing to do with its affairs. This is strange enough. 
Where else can a population be found equal to this that 
has never had a resident lawyer? A population more 
than two hundred years old ! The present Chief War- 
den, Wm. P. Lewis, has rendered eighty civil, and twenty 
criminal judgments, and in but one of these hundred 
trials was a lawyer, or " pettif oger, " a participant. 


Population, males, 612; females, 535; total, 1,147. 
Born on Block Island, 1,032; born in United States, 
1,138; foreign births, 9; colored inhabitants, 40. Of 
each 100 population 97 are American born, the largest 
percentage of such of any town in the State. Between 
the ages of 60 and 70, living, 61 persons; between 70 
and 80, 36; between 80 and 90, 13. Married persons, 
male and female, 477; widowed, male and female, 67; 
divorced, 2. Total, attending school, 299; Number over 


15 years who can neither read nor write, 45; all between 
10 and 15 years of age read and write. Deaf, 2; deaf 
and blind, 1 ; blind, 3; idiotic, 10. Voters born on Block 
Island, 300; foreign born, 3; born off the Island, and in 
United States, 12; total voters, 315. Number of farms, 
159; acres in them, 4,817; their cash value, $357,100. 
Number of horses, 137; cows, 261; oxen, 274; sheep 
and lambs, 2,437; swine, 462; value of cattle sold in 
1875, $16,007. Acres of corn, in 1874, 316; bushels 
raised, 13,791. Pounds of butter, 20,395; of cheese, 
4,580. Bushels of potatoes, 12,784; of onions, 383. 
Value of eggs and poultry in 1875, $23,394. Pounds of 
wool, 4,883. Cords of peat dug, 544. Total value of 
farm products, in 1875, $102,615. Farms of between 3 
and 10 acres, 23; of 10 to 20 acres, 52; of 20 to 50, 64; 
of 50 to 100 acres, 14; of 100 to 200 acres, 4; of 200 to 
300 acres, 2. Sea drift, 6,444 cords, valued at $12,838. 
Fish caught, 1,067,810 pounds, valued at $42,026, in 


This has been carried on here only for the accommoda- 
tion of the Islanders. John Rose, of Revolutionary times, 
was the first boat-builder upon the Island, of whom we 
can obtain any account. He is probably the one men- 
tioned in the Colonial Records of Rhode Island, as having 
been captured with another, by an American privateer 
and delivered over to the "Honorable Major General 
Gates to be treated as prisoners of war, or dismissed." 
Each nail put in the boats which he built was driven into 
a hole first bored with a gimlet. Lemuel B. Rose was the 
next boat-builder. 

Dea. Sylvester D. Mitchell, now living, has been the 
principal builder during the past twenty-five years, having 
built ten new ones, and re-built ten others, averaging in 
cost from $250 to $800. The deacon goes upon the 


main, cuts his timber in the woods, directs the sawing at 
the mill, imports the same, lays his own keel, finishes 
and warrants every piece of wood, and every nail from 
stem to stern, and "all have been successful." 


Blacksmithing. For about twenty years the early set- 
tlers were obliged to go to Newport to patronize a black- 
smith. We find none of the "sons of Vulcan" on the 
Island until March 20, 1683, when the town gave a hearty 
reception to a Mr. William Harris, making him a donation 
of four acres of land on the east shore of the Great Pond. 
From that date the smoke of the forge and the ring of 
the anvil have continued to be the principal signs of 
mechanism here. 

In 1758, the blacksmith shop and tools were an institu- 
tion belonging to the town, and were then leased to Mr. 
Joseph Briggs for smithing. At present two shops are 
sustained, and have monopolizing prices. One is occupied 
by Mr. John Hooiyer, and the other by Mr. Richmond Negus, 
the former at the Harbor, and the latter by the Harbor 
Pond. Mr. Simeon Ball also carries on the business in a 
modest way, where, besides other work, he is willing to 
shoe horses on the condition- of the owners cutting off 
said animals' legs and bringing only them to his shop. 
He has no intention of exposing his precious life around 
the heels of fractious horses. It may become a question 
whether his terms are not the cheapest, unless his com- 
petitors reduce their prices. 

Carpenters and Joiners, upon the Island, have been in 
good demand during the past few years of rapid improve- 
ment in buildings, both public and private. Messrs. 
Almanzo Littlefield, John Thomas & Sons, and John Rose, 
of the West Side, have held their grounds well as build- 
ers, although some houses have been erected here by 


workmen from abroad. Mr. Thomas claims the " inside 
track " of all his competitors, because he is master of the 
trowel and stone-hammer as well as of the mallet, chisel, 
and plane. Mr. Leander Ball is carpenter, joiner, and 
lumber dealer. 

Watch Repairing, and mending of all kinds of fine 
metals are done by Mr. Marcus M. Day. However unpre- 
tentious his shop and jewelry store may be, none who 
know him will distrust his ingenuity or his honesty. 

Boot and Shoe-Making, as well as mending, is done by 

Mr. Nathaniel Hall, and by Mr. Harrison, the 

latter having hung out the first sign for such work, it is 
said, ever knov/n on Block Island, a thing needed here 
about as much, in former days, as it would be in a large 
family where each expects to know all about the other's 

Dress-Making- is done professionally, for the first time 
here, by Miss Ann Maria Rose, whose natural accomplish- 
ments and education on the main fit her well for making 
<' good fits " for others. Miss Hattie Littlefield has also 
taken a course of instruction in a fashionable shop and 
has entered upon the work of improving the fashions and 
figures of the Island ladies. If these two young ladies 
will omit the lelittling extremes of fashionable fitting they 
may do much to increase the pleasures of the eye without 
diminishing the comforts -of the body, an evil that has 
brought a dark shadow to many American households. 

The Millinery of the Island, to one, at least, is quite a 
mystery. That neat, becoming hats are worn by ladies, 
young and old, and by the little girls is certain. But 
where they come from is as mysterious as the whence of 
the swallows or the wind. Certainly there are no win- 
dows on Block Island where the Jaunty hat, the ostrich 
plume, and the bright ribbon catch the passer's eye. An 
enormous trunk, however, not quite large enough for a 


ihop, and very easily handled, has been seen several times 
at the Harbor, and at the Center. One or two ladies are 
supposed to be umpires for the spring and fall styles suit- 
able for the Island. 

Painting, house, sign, and fresco, is done by Mr. "Wil- 
liam Greene. 

Masonry, in a professional manner, is done by Mr. 
Alonzo Mitchell. 



The various grades of these upon Block Island corres- 
pond with other things in the different times in which 
they were used. The writer has one of that grade used 
when the Island was called Manisses, and when only In- 
dians were here to do the grinding. It was discovered 
by Mr. Isaiah Ball, father of the present Mr. John Ball, 
buried in the ground, and by its sides were a pestle, and 
an Indian stone ax. The three articles, mortar, pestle, 
and ax, were the main furniture of the wigwam, which 
doubtless stood a little south of Mr. John Ball's house, 
where they were found, and near them was a large quan- 
tity of shells also, near enough to the Great Pond to be 
carried to said wigwam conveniently. 

This primitive mill is sirnply a rude stone mortar. The 
stone of which it is made, externally, resembles one just 
taken from the field wall. It weighs about seventy-five 
pounds, and shows no marks of man, except the bowl that 
was excavated by other and harder stones. It is unhke 
the most of the granite of the Island, and is more Hke a 
gray sandstone. The excavation in it will hold less than 
two quarts. Into this the squaws put the corn by the 
handful, and there pounded, and ground it to meal. The 
pestle with which this was done, is a harder species of 
stone, such as are found upon the beach. It is about five 
and a half inches long, and three inches through from 
side to side in the middle, rounded at the ends like an egg^ 
both ends being of nearly equal size. It is smooth, and 


nicely fitted to the hand, and of convenient weight for 
the purpose of pounding in the mortar. On it are still 
remaining Indian characters, made, it seems, by some 
thickened juice or sap, of dark brown, and of such a 
nature as to whiten the stone beneath the ink, or juice, so 
that when the latter has worn away and disappeared, the 
hieroglyphic beneath still remains. Two characters are 
well defined; the one representing a stalk of corn half 
grown, and the other resembling a full-grown stalk. 
Such vv^as the simple structure of a Manissean mill ages 

These were an improvement upon those used by the 
Indians. They were introduced by the early settlers, and 
though rude in structure, were far more serviceable. 
According to the sample now before me, and the tradi- 
tion of the oldest inhabitants now living on the Island, 
the wooden mortars were made of lignum-vitse. They 
were mere sections of the body of a tree, about* sixteen 
or twenty inches long, and ten inches in diameter. At 
one end they were hollowed out sufficiently to hold seve- 
ral quarts of corn. Their pestles were of stone, and were 
longer and heavier than the Indian pestle above described. 
The wood was so hard, and so tough, as well as exceed- 
ingly cross-grained, that no amount of pounding could 
spHt them or wear them out, as is evident from what is 
known of the one now in the possession of the writer, 
and of which the following is a history. 

The Dancing. 
There is good reason for giving it this name, as will be 
seen presently. It is lignum-vitse, fourteen inches high, 
about ten inches in diameter, and is nearly as heavy as 
would be the same bulk of stone. Its capacity is about 
four quarts. The grains are diagonal, for the most part, 


and hence it is not cracked by use or age. It is weather 
worn, gray, and shabby outside, with a very uneven sur- 
face, occasioned in part by an ax while it was used as a 
splitting-block, and in part by the storms of half a cen- 
tury v/ith which it is well known to have been beaten in 
winter and summer. 

This mortar is an intimate acquaintance of the oldest 
inhabitants of the Island, the following of whom, con- 
sulted separately, agree in stating its origin. Mrs. Mar- 
garet Dodge, eighty-six years old, of remarkably clear 
memory; Mr. Anthony Littlefield, and his wife, each 
eighty -four years old; Mr. and Mrs. John Ball, over 
seventy; Mrs. Caroline Willis, eighty-one; and others all 
agree in stating that this mortar was brought to the 
Island in the ship Palatine. As an item of possibly cor- 
roborative testimony, it was owned for a long time, and 
used in the family of the venerable Simon Ray, at whose 
house several of the unfortunate inmates of the Palatine 
were received and cared for. There it remained until he 
and his family passed away, and the house was occupied 
by those of another name. 

During a considerable period after this change the old 
Ray house was said to be haunted. Sights and sounds 
were there witnessed, it is said, which our nerves protest 
against repeating in an attempted description. In com- 
parison with them the present fabrications of spirit-rap- 
ping and table-dancing are puerile. This mortar, accord- 
ing to tradition, was then an inmate of said haunted 
house, and fell into line with the performances of the 
other surroundings. The abovenamed persons say that 
among its strange antics were those of dancing around 
the room, untouched, throwing itself on its side and roll- 
ing to and fro, and then righting itself again, and hopping 
up the chamber floor several times in succession. Hence 
it took its name as the dancing mortar. The writer 


vouches for the truthfulness of this ancient performance 
no further than the statement here given corresponds with 
the account given to him. His own private opinion of 
the matter is that all the dancing that mortar ever did 
was in the imagination of one who was then known as 
the "old opium-eater," and who was a near neighbor to 
the old mortar. 

It surely does not dance now. This, however, is no 
proof that it did not dance then. The wonder is that it is 
still in existence, when we consider its treatment. More 
than fifty years ago its old home, the Simon Ray house, 
was taken down, and a part of it put into the new house 
then built and now owned by Mr. Raymond Dickens. 
But the old mortar had a questionable reputation, and was 
refused a place in the new house, perhaps, because it was 
old and less needed than formerly. Fifty years, Mr. 
Dickens says, he has seen it about his premises, and nearly 
all of that time it has occupied the humiliating place of a 
stone in a fence wall. There the writer recently found it, 
placed w^ell-nigh the bottom of the wall, on its side, with 
big and little stones above it, as though there were danger 
of its having another dancing fit. But no, it will not 
dance again. Its youth is gone. Fifty years of pestle 
pounding, and fifty years more of storms and sunshine, 
wet and dry, have given it a gray appearance unbecoming 
the dance. Its place is now upon the retired Hst of the 
antiquarian, where its rosettes of gray and yellow moss 
w^ithin shall never be disturbed by hands that banish 
hunger with pounded corn. 

Mortars of a similar description, the best mills then 
upon the Island, were also used for chairs or stools, by 
turning them bottom end up and sitting on them. 


A great improvement on the mortars were those little 
stone mills which seem to have been made very much 
after the pattern of those mentioned in the Bible. They 
were constructed of the upper and nether stones, about 
two feet in diameter, and were similar in construction to 
those now driven by water or steam-power. They were 
worked by means of an upright shaft, like a broom-stick, 
the upper end of which was stationary, while the lower 
end was connected with the top of the upper stone about 
half way from its center to its circumference. This stone, 
resting upon a pivot in its center — a pivot that could be 
raised or lowered, was turned by taking hold of the said 
shaft and moving it round and round with one hand while 
the other hand would feed in the corn as needed. Two 
persons at a time could grasp the shaft and make the 
stone revolve quite rapidly. Even at the present time 
there are persons who occasionally use these mills, still 
kept as relics, for grinding samp. 


The First Windmill. 

This was of short life and little value. It stood upon 
the elevated ground now known as the Colored Burying 
Ground, and was built about sixty-five years ago. It was 
a little affair, not over twelve feet high, with board wings 
made in sections to be taken off or put on according to 
the force of the wind. The whole mill was turned around 
to bring the vanes into the wind, and when brought to 
the right point its frame work was wedged up to keep the 
mill from revolving while the vanes w^ere going. 

Honeywell's Mill. 
In the early part of the present century this mill was 
erected upon the elevated ground east of the north end of 


Fresh Pond. It was a rudely constructed affair, although 
an improvement on its predecessors. It was mainly like 
the windmills now in use, but its cap was turned by 
means of a long lever, made of a ship spar, descending 
from the cap obliquely to a cart-wheel on the ground, the 
end of which, like an axle, entering the hub of said 
wheel, and resting there. When the cap needed to be 
turned to bring the vanes into the wind the cart-wheel was 
rolled around, and by its carrying the lower end of the 
long lever along, the cap was turned and the vanes were 
thus adjusted. 

The Harbor Mill. 

It is not easy to decide where this mill was first built. 
That it was brought to the Island from some other local- 
ity is certain. Three localities are mentioned. Fall River, 
Swansey, and Long Island. It was brought here about 
the year 1810, by Capt. Thomas Rose, in the schooner 
Greyhound, and was set up and owned by Mr. Samuel 
Ward. It was located about a hundred feet northwest of 
the Providence House, and was forty years old at that 
time, making it now more than a centenary. While there, 
about forty-five years, it did good service. An inferior 
wood-cut of it may be seen in Harper's Monthly for July, 
1876. A child was killed by one of its vanes, at the 
Harbor. About the year 1856, Capt. E. P. Littlefield 
sold it to Mr. Jonathan Ball, its present owner, who moved 
it to its present location, not far from the Center. Its 
weight of a hundred years, and the strong winds neces- 
sary to keep it going, make a trembling that would 
frighten the Red Rover rats of the Stone Mill at Newport 
if any of them were in and about its old crannies. 

The Littlefield Mill. 
About fifty rods north of the town house, at the Center, 
stands a windmill that was erected in 1815, and began 


its career in the great September gale of that year. Com- 
pleted on the twenty-second, and accepted as the fulfill- 
ment of the builders' contract, on the twenty-third its 
sails were put on, and grinding begun, when, to the con- 
sternation of all beholders, the fearful gale blew off its 
four arms, thirty feet long each, which came down tumb- 
ling and crashing near the house of the owner. Its next 
casualty worthy of mention was in a gale less violent, not 
many years ago. The wind was so strong that the break 
did not check its too great velocity. It stands on the top 
of a sharp little hill, and while men were plying the break 
with all their might, but ineffectual, a Mr. Roberts, just 
then, for a particular reason, feeling himself to be much 
stronger than he really was, grasped one of the long 
vanes by its lower end as it was sweeping past him with 
great velocity, and about one second from that instant he 
was high in the air, some think forty feet, and that was 
the last he knew of himself until an hour or so had 
elapsed from the time his friends picked him up for dead 
near the bottom of the steep little hill. The fall nearly 
killed him. 

This mill, owned by Hon. Ray S. Littlefield, is capable 
of grinding one hundred bushels of excellent corn -meal 
in a day when the wind is favorable. The quantity 
ground in it annually may be estimated at from nine to 
ten thousand bushels. A large amount of grain is brought 
from abroad and ground here, in addition to the corn 
raised on the Island. 


While Capt. James Sands, one of the first settlers, and 
a carpenter, was alive he had a mill-pond, and a mill 
which was used for grinding corn, as such a mill is known 
to have been there anciently. It stood where the old 
mill now stands that belongs to Mr. Almanzo Littlefield, 


near the old Sands Garrison. Many years ago it was 
made over into a mill for carding wool, but did not give 
satisfaction to its . patrons, and for this reason, as well as 
for a scarcity of water, ran out, and is a mill now only in 
name, the back side of which is represented in the num- 
ber of Harper above mentioned. 

Such have been the mills of Block Island, and none, 
perhaps, have ever furnished better meal, as multitudes 
of summer visitors prove by their demands for corn-cakes. 
Many will remember with pleasure the Littlefield mill, so 
near the Central House, and in and around which the 
children have played in summer, and within whose dusty 
walls some of them have been gathered for an hour's 
Sabbath-school, where they have sung their familiar 
hymns and recited their lessons to the lady visitor, who 
faithfully directed their minds to things above this world 
of dust and ashes. 

This mill, on the street through which most of the 
funeral processions of the Island pass, has always been 
stopped while they have been passing. 


Altlioiigii the public buildings of Block Island are of 
bumble proportions when compared with some in other 
places, yet they are commendable in themselves, and indi- 
cate the moving of new hfe and increased enterprise on 
the part of the inhabitants, who are daily learning the 
import of the old classic maxim that " the gods helj) those 
who help themselves^ The Islanders have seen this illus- 
trated in the government appropriations which have fol- 
lowed the persistent efforts to secure the harbor, the new 
light-house, and the life-saving stations. They are learn- 
ing, too, that good public houses are necessary first to 
bring public patronage, and that the greater the patronage 
secured by one house, the more are attracted to others. 
Two first-class, high-price hotels here are of great advant- 
age to those of less pretension, for the multitude follow 
the few in fashionable life, and the great luxuries of the 
Island are as abundant at the cottage as at the palace. 
The refreshing sea-breezes, the bathing-beach, the splen- 
did scenery, the sports upon the water, and the palatable 
denizens of the deep are as accessible to the day-laborer 
as to the millionaire. 


The first light-house on Block Island was erected on 
Sandy Point, the northerly extremity, in the year 1829. 
Its keeper was William A. Weeden, formerly of James- 
town, R. I., who also kept its successor during its first 
two years. 

The second one was built on said Point in 1837, and 


was more durable than the first, but was succeeded by 
another, after an existence of about twenty years. 

This second house was a substantial building, located, 
not on the extremity of the Point, as was its predecessor, 
but farther from the encroachments of the sea. It had 
two towers, and its lights were shown from them by 
means of parabolic reflectors. (Gen. J. C. Woodruff, 
Eng'r 3d Light- House Dist.) 

In 1839 Mr. Weeden resigned, and in his place Mr. 
Simeon Babcock was appointed, and held his position 
until 1841, when Mr. Edward Mott was appointed keeper 
under President Harrison. 

The third light-house was erected on the same Point in 
1857, and was kept by Mr. Mott until 1865, when Mr. 
Simeon Babcock was replaced as keeper under President 
Polk's administration. This last house did service only 
about ten years. These three houses on Sandy Point, all 
built within twenty-eight years, were rendered unstable 
by the shifting of the .sand of the Point on which they 
were located. 

The fourth, on Sandy Point — the well-built, stone struc- 
ture now standing, was erected in 1867, and is likely to 
be serviceable to navigators of the sound for many years 
to come. During this succession of light-houses on said 
Point the keepers have held their positions according to 
the successive changes of politics. Mr. Babcock, above- 
mentioned, held his appointment from 1845 to 1849, 
when Mr. Edward Mott was replaced under President 
Taylor. In 1850 Mr. Enoch Rose, Jr., was appointed 
keeper under President Filmore, and held his position 
under President Pierce, until he died, and was succeeded 
by Mr. Nicholas Littlefield, who continued as keeper 
through Mr. Buchanan's presidency. In 1861 Mr. Hiram 
D. Ball was appointed keeper of the Sandy Point light- 
house, under President Lincoln, and still retains his posi- 


tion, one of far more responsibility, and strictness of 
attendance than those are aware of who are not familiar 
with light-house regulations. 

This last-named house is a favorite resort for visitors, 
both on account of the natural scenery, and the agreeable- 
ness of the respectable family of Mr. Ball, the keeper, 
whose ample means could furnish him a far more pleasant 
home, especially in winter. 

The New Light-House. 

The fifth is the new light-house. This is situated on 
the southeast end of the Island, on a bluff one hundred 
and fifty-two feet above mean low-water. The lantern is 
fifty-two feet above the ground, making a total height 
above water of two hundred and four feet. It was built in 
the summer of 1874 by Mr. L. H. Tynan, of Staten Island. 
It is a two-story brick dwelling, attic, with octagonal 
tower, accommodating two families, and cost the govern- 
ment $75,000. The glass of the lantern cost $10,000, 
and consists mainly of prismatic pieces too pure to be 
touched by the visitor's fingers, for the greater the per- 
fection the more perceptible and injurious the soiling. 
Six persons can stand at the same time within this lantern, 
which is of the first order of lights. It has been seen 
thirty-five miles, and is examined with interest by multi- 
tudes of summer visitors, who are courteously waited 
upon by the keeper, although he is not required to do this 
by the government. It w^as first lighted Feb. 1, 1875. It 
consumes from nine hundred to one thousand gallons of 
lard oil annually, burning four wicks at the same time, 
one within another. The largest is about 3^ inches in 
diameter; the next, 3 inches; the next, 2^ inches, and the 
inmost ^ of an inch in diameter. 

Mr. H. W. Clark, keeper of the light -house, has held 
that position from the first, on the moderate salary of 


$600. Mr. Nathaniel Dodge, first assistant, has a salary 
of $450, and Charles E. Dodge, second assistant, has 

The fog-signal is one hundred feet southeast of the new 
light-house, and is under the superintendence of the 
keepers of said light-house. It is blown by the steam of 
a four-horse power engine, there being two such that one 
may be used while the other is under repairs. The sound 
is made in immense trumpets directed towards the sea, 
seventeen feet long, of cast metal. These do not make^ 
but direct the sound which is made by a sireii^ near the 
small end of the trumpet, inside, made of brass, like the 
buzz in the striking part of a clock, and is ten inches in 
diameter. Upon this siren the steam strikes and causes 
it to revolve with so great velocity as to produce the 
warning sound which is heard from two to ten miles, 
according to the condition of the atmosphere. 


These are houses built by government for men, and 
the necessary apparatus for saving the lives and property 
of shipwrecked vessels. There are two such on Block 
Island, one on the West Side, at Coonejonus, and the 
other at the Harbor. The former was established in 1872, 
at an expense of $1,400 for the building. The latter, at 
greater expense, was built in 1874. Each accommodates 
seven expert sailors, one being captain, and they patrol 
the shores each night through the winter, on the watch 
for wrecks. They have cooking-stoves, tables, closets, 
dormitories, beds, boats, ropes, life-preservers, rubber 
suits for inflation and floating, &c., &c., all that is needful 
for their business. The two stations employ fifteen men, 
one of them being paymaster, and they draw pay to the 
amount of $2,700 yearly. 

Had these stations been here in 1831 when the War- 


rior was wrecked on Sandy Point and all lives lost, twen- 
ty-one, many might have been saved by the use of the 
mortar which throws a line far out over seas in which no 
boat can be managed. The Cooneymus station has such 
a mortar, and one is expected for the Harbor station. 
These, with the two light-houses, and the two wrecking 
companies, and the fog-signal, are a great protection to 
commerce. They lack the supplementary signal station. 


The first of these erected upon the Island was located 
near the north end of the Fresh Pond, and easterly of it. 
That was then a central point for the inhabitants. There, 
too, the only Island school-house was then located, also a 
pound, and a windmill. At that time, according to a 
memorandum made by the Rev. Dr. Stiles, the houses 
were located, " all but two or three, within two and a half 
miles of the meeting-house." This was said of them in 

The second meeting-house, after the first had done good 
service about half a century, was built in 1814, and was 
located on Cemetery Hill, and was described by Mr. 
Henry T. Beckwith, of Providence, in 1857, as being 
"similar and equal in appearance to those of others of 
the country towns of the state," and as containing "the 
old square pews and sounding board." This house was 
built by the town, as was its predecessor at the Fresh 
Pond by the First Baptist church of New Shoreham. 
Subsequently the town appropriated the house for a town 
house, exclusively, and moved and fashioned it into the 
town hall, now located at the Center. 

The third meeting-house was located on " Graves Hill," 
east of the Center, and near the road thence to the Har- 
bor, and by the lane leading from said road to the house 
of Mr. Joshua Dodge. It was built "on shares," and 


was occupied by the First Baptist church until the year 

The fourth house of worship on Block Island was 
erected by the Free- Will Baptists, on the West Side, in 
the year 1853, and was burned in 1863. 

The fifth house of worship was the one at present occu- 
pied by the said First Baptist church, and was dedicated 
on the 25th of August, 1857. Its erection was chiefly 
due to the Rev. Mr. Gladwin's untiring devotion to the 
enterprise, encouraged by the liberality of Mr. John G. 
Sheffield and other active citizens, who set an example of 
Christian sacrifice which the rising generation will do well 
to imitate. To some who still speak tenderly of Mr. 
Gladwin, who has gone to his reward, and who labored 
for the present house against much bitter and blind oppo- 
sition, his success seems almost superhuman. 

When this house was dedicated the steamer Canonicus 
brought from Providence and Newport eleven hundred 
passengers, then said to be ''one of the largest and most 
agreeable steamboat excursions ever known." The house 
cost $2,500, and was paid for promptly. Since then it 
has been improved, and its grounds graded and walled ; 
the latter was done in 1875. During the same year a 
furnace was placed in it, the first furnace ever brought 
upon the Island, and hence ft was a novelty to many that 
elicited sailor phrases quite novel to the pastor, as those 
phrases were applied to the furnace. 

In this house was placed the first and only bell ever 
hung upon Block Island. Though small, it is far better 
than none, and its clear notes are undisturbed by car 
wheels, whistles, and tramping on pavements. 

Here it should be added that the present good condi- 
tion of this house is due in a great measure to the good 
care it has received from its first and almost only sexton, 
Mr. Samuel Ball. This good care has been equaled also 


by his promptness for nearly a score of years to his post, 
and that, too, when business cares and domestic duties 
have pressed their claims upon his attention. But few 
boys are now upon the Island who, when they are old, 
will fail to remember some of the wholesome talks of 
'' Uncle S. Ball." 

The sixth meeting-house of the Island was built on the 
West Side, in the year 1869, by the Free-Will Baptist 
church. Before it was completed it was demolished by 
the great "September gale" of that year. It was intend- 
ed to be similar in size and finish to the one at the Cen- 
ter. Its loss was a sad calamity. 

The seventh house of worship is the one at present 
occupied by the Free Will-Baptist church, and is located 
on the West Side of the Island, from which the landscape 
and ocean scenery is very beautiful. 


Previous to 1842, no public houses for boarders were 
kept upon Block Island. If any persons came from the 
main on business they stopped among the inhabitants 
wherever they could find accommodations. 

In 1842, Mr. Alfred Card opened his house at the Har- 
bor, where the Adrian House is now located, for boarders 
or excursionists. He says: "There I set the first excur- 
sion table for boarders of pleasure," ever furnished on the 
Island. The first party consisted of seven men "from 
Newport," one of whom was Mr. Van Buren. They 
stayed two days, and "they were the first party that ever 
employed, at Block Island, a boat and boatmen to carry 
them a fishing." "John L. Mitchell and Samuel W. 
Rose carried them out." For twenty years Mr. Card's 
popularity was increasing, and with it his patrons increased 
in numbers, and his accommodations were greatly im- 
proved. During this period two other houses for visitors 
were opened, and another was needed. 

HOTELS. 211 

The Spring House. 

This was opened to the public in 1852. Though at 
that time only an unpretentious cottage it was an improve- 
ment on its predecessors in location and conveniences. 
Of the hotels in 1857, a competent judge and writer 

"The hotel accommodations at the Island consist of 
three small houses, lodging altogether about one hundred 
persons, and situated near the landing. Of these the 
Spring House, as it is called, is the most desirable, as it 
possesses much the finest situation upon the hill, over- 
looking the other two. The view of the ocean from it is 
very fine; the house being situated some sixty or seventy 
feet above the sea, a very little back from it, and with the 
land sloping down so as to give an uninterrupted view, 
the prospect is one upon which the visitor dwells with 
never-failing pleasure." 

After having been kept twelve years by Mr. Card, the 
Spring House, in 1870, was sold to Mr. B. B. Mitchell, the 
present proprietor. It has received many improvements 
in size and otherwise. In the early part of 1877 its ele- 
gant addition fronting the north was erected, indicating 
an enterprise that anticipates the wants of many and first- 
class boarders. Its name is taken from its boiling springs 
one of which has mineral qualities. 

The Ocean View Hotel. 

The proprietor of this large and beautiful structure 
had no sooner witnessed the success of the Harbor enter- 
prise, in which he had taken the deepest interest for seve- 
ral years, than his large plans were laid to meet the 
demands of visitors to the Island. The beauty of its loca- 
tion, and the elegance of its architecture are too well 
known by its many patrons to need description. The 
building was erected in 1873, opened in 1874, and en- 


larged in 1875. The proprietor, Hon. Nicholas Ball, by 
his activity in securing a harbor, formed acquaintances 
with many persons of distinction, and thus has done 
much to attract first-class patrons, whom he endeavors to 
retain by ample accommodations now existing and plan- 
ned for the future. The name of the house — Ocean View — 
indicates one of its chief attractions, as well as its spa- 
cious and beautiful grounds. 

In addition to those already mentioned, which have 
been pioneers in hotel enterprise, there are several others 
that have done a fair business; some have been recently 
completed, and still others are in process of construction. 
The Adrian House, kept by Mr. Charles Willis, near the 
Harbor; the Beach House, M. M. Day, proprietor; the 
Woonsocket House, kept by Mr. Alanson Rose; the Rose 
Cottage, a boarding-house, kept by Mrs. Matilda Rose; the 
Sea- Side House, Frank Yv^illis, proprietor, recently en- 
larged; the Central House, kept by Hon. Ray S. Little- 
field, new and commodious; the Littlefield House, kept by 
Halsey Littlefield, and nearly completed; the Providence 
House, A. D. Mitchell, proprietor, and Samuel Mott's resi- 
dence at the south end of the Great Pond, have all been 
proved by their many respectable patrons to be comfort- 
able and pleasantly located homes for summer visitors to 
Block Island. Besides these still others are soon to be 
built and opened. 

The High- Land House, Mr. Alonzo Mitchell, proprietor, 
a new and beautiful structure, located on a high point 
south of the Harbor, to be opened in the summer of 1877, 
has its attractions. 

The Shore Saloon, opened in the summer of 1875, 
located near the steamboat landing, kept by Mr. Ellery 
Barber of Westerly, accommodates many who come to 
the Island to remain only a few hours. Its tables seat 
about one hundred and twenty-five. 


Those wIlo visited Block Island ten years ago now see 
in it a marked change from its condition then to that of 
the present. Now, instead of throwing out tons of ballast, 
imstepping masts, packing away sails, and hauling up 
boats at midnight, in cold storms, with oxen, and a score 
of men to steady the boats, and instead of the slow work 
of getting said boats back, rigged for fishing, consuming 
time, they pass into a safe harbor, and as soon as desired, 
hoist sail, and go direct to the fishing grounds. This and 
other improvements are well represented by the following 
extract from an address of Hon. Nicholas Ball, delivered 
in November, 1876. He says: 

'' Let us see what has been done for us within the last 
seven years, for surely our memory ought to carry us back 
over that short space of time. Government has appro- 
priated the sum of .$265,000, for a harbor at Block 
Island, and all but $62,000 or $63,000 has been expended 
here, and well and economically expended, too. I have 
not time to enumerate the benefits afforded by the works 
thus paid for, not to any one person or family alone, but 
to every family upon the Island. Without fear of con- 
tradiction, I will say that it saves to every consumer of a 
ton of coal, one dollar per ton; to every consumer of a. 
cord of wood, one dollar and fifty cents per cord; to every 
purchaser of a thousand feet of lumber, one dollar and 
fifty cents per thousand; for every sack of salt used, fif- 
teen cents; for every barrel of flour brought here, fifty 
cents per barrel, considering the former risk in bringing 


it in open boats, liable to get wet on the passage; and on 
all our imports, the gain is in proportion to the above. 
Our exports are large and various, and in former days 
when we could use only open boats, were exposed to great 
risk from water and frost. I have known many a boat- 
load to be sold at a great sacrifice to escape a coming 
storm. We were thus frequently placed at the mercy of 
foreign purchasers, who might make almost any bargain 
with us, well knowing that we could not wait and run the 
risk of our freight getting damaged by rain. Now, we 
can safely trust our merchandise in the hold of our 
schooners, and wait until a good market is found. Add 
to the above that the fishermen get more fishing days 
each year, than they did under the old system of hauling 
up the boats every storm, and you may safely say, where 
the fishermen formerly caught three quintals of codfish, 
they get five quintals now, the fish, of course, to be as 
plenty in one case as in the other. Our mail comes to us 
now three times per week instead of once, as formerly. 
Then it came in a small, open boat; now it is brought in a 
commodious schooner, with deck and cabin. During July 
and August of the past summer, the mail came five days 
out of the seven, and on three of those days in each week, 
we received tv/o mails. 

Are the results of these appropriations of any advant- 
age to the Block Island people? Who can be so ungrate- 
ful as to say '' No, we did not want them? " 

During the same space of time the government has 
appropriated money for two Life-Saving stations, in which 
are employed fourteen men, drawing pay to the amount 
of $2,700 per year. There has also been built, at a cost of 
$75,000, a new light-house, wherein are employed three 
men, who together receive $1,250 per year, besides some 
$150 expended yearly for hauling supplies to the building. 

In 1854, this town then had the following persons 


employed by government; one light-house keeper, one 
postmaster, and one inspector of customs. Government 
positions were not increased in number until within seven 
years. Now we have four light-house keepers, one post- 
master, one inspector of customs, one man in charge of 
the government breakwater, and fifteen men employed in 
the life-saving service. The pay of the three men in 1854 
amounted to about .$840 per year; the pay of the twenty- 
two men now employed amounts to $6,145 per annum." 

Nor are the above financial improvements all that have 
recently been made on Block Island. The great achieve- 
ment of obtaining a harbor has given a grand, living 
impulse to everything else. Since then, of necessity, the 
roads of the Island have* been straightened, widened, 
graded, cleared of stones, at an expense that would have 
startled the people ten years ago. Buggies and fine car- 
riages have superseded the ox-cart, the saddle and pillion. 
Beautiful and staunch yachts and smacks with decks and 
comfortable cabins, as the "Dixon," the "Anthony," and 
the "Hattie Rebecca," are owned by the Islanders, and 
used for carrying mail, passengers, freight, and for fishing 
instead of the open boats, many of which are still in use. 
Within the past five years, more new, modern buildings 
have been erected here than w^ere built during the fifty 
years preceding, and at a greater cost than all the houses 
here of the two hundred years previous. The frequent 
arrival of steamers in the summer has infused new life 
and enterprise into all kinds of business, and into all 
grades of society. Even deaf and dumb " Blind Henry " 
has felt the impulse, and with his cane picks his way from 
the West Side to the Harbor, at the risk of his life, to 
hold out his hat for a pittance from the passing stranger. 
For the accommodation of the multitude of visitors 
brought here by means of the Government Harbor, large 
and beautiful hotels have been multiplied, market in- 


creased for the delicious fish direct from the sea, and 
employment furnished for many who would otherwise be 
absent from the Island, and still more new and beautiful 
hotels and private residences are under contemplation. 
Mr. Noah Dodge's residence, just completed, so sightly, 
large, and convenient, will incite others to imitate his 
example. The schools, also, are receiving increased atten- 
tion. The new and commodious school-house on the 
West Side, the new ones contemplated at the Center, at 
the Harbor, and at the Gulley, together with the estab- 
lishment of the High School, the first of the kind on the 
Island, and the rapid increase in number and variety of 
newspapers and periodicals, and the infusion of intelli- 
gence and refinement from visitors, are all evidences that 
the Islanders have no intention of being rated as "degen- 
erate sons of noble sires." Nor is the least of this rapid 
improvement here the newly realized luxury of having 
friends abroad, as well as at home. The Island is no 
longer, socially, a cart-wheel with some one leading man 
for a hub, around which the rest of the inhabitants, like 
spokes, revolve. The rim is broken: the spokes are out. 
No one moves with others unless he chooses to do so. 
Many have been to the Centennial. Many have formed 
pleasant acquaintances with boarders, living abroad, and 
have learned that if one does not receive merited honor 
"in his own country, and in his own house," he may 
obtain it elsewhere. This advantage, formerly denied, in 
a great measure, to the Island so remote from the main, 
is now enjoyed by means of safe and ready transit to near 
and distant towns and cities. Nor should the rapid im- 
provement in the churches of the Island be passed without 
notice. Instead of the stove, there is the furnace; instead 
of the smoke of tug commingled with that of kerosene to 
stifle the preacher, in winter, now the fresh air from the 
furnace warms the main auditorium; instead of the church 


grounds lying as left by the farmer, uneven, steep, where 
for successive winters there were many ungraceful slips 
and falls, now the lot is graded, walled, and suitably fur- 
nished with steps; instead of the short-lived Sabbath- 
school in summer, nipped by the first frost of autumn, 
now it continues the year round, with such concerts, 
monthly, and Christmas festivals as the children will not 
soon forget; and instead of the $750 salary paid a few 
years ago, now one of $1,200 is paid promptly, and the 
church is abundantly able to pay more. While the most 
of this is said of one of the churches, the same ratio of 
improvement has been in the other, whose numbers have 
been less and means more limited, but their zeal and im- 
provement, perhaps, none the less commendable. 

The greatest of all material improvements on Block 
Island, indeed, the mother of all others, has been the con- 
venience of landing secured here by the construction of 
the Government Harbor. As evidence of this, consider 
the following contrast. Previous to the Harbor, behold 
that cloud coming swiftly, darkening, and accompanied 
by a sudden roughness of the sea that puts the fisherman's 
boat into great peril. He hastens from the Bank home- 
ward, but before he reaches the Bay his frail masts can 
hardly weather the gale. By the most skillful exertions 
he skims over the enormous waves until he has neared 
the old landing-place, but there he sees the waters leap- 
ing upon the shore and gliding back in such fury as to 
threaten his open boat with sinking. He dares not 
attempt to land. His kindred stand upon the shore in 
dismay. The boat is tacked this way, and that way, while 
its inmates are pumping and bailing for their lives, and 
liable to be sunk any instant, while the gale increases in 
fury and the waves toss, dash against, and into the boat so 
as to make death by drowning seem inevitable. Then, in 
the moment of desperation hear the captain say: "Boys, 


we shall be drowned if we stay here, and we may as well 
take our chances going ashore ! " The vessel is now seen 
headed for the landing. Rapidly she glides either to 
safety or to destruction. Eyes upon the shore fill with 
tears, lips quiver, and in agony friends interpret the fear- 
ful crisis. There is just one way, and only one in which 
it is possible for that boat and crew to land in safety, or 
in other words to escape immediate destruction. She 
must ride upon the shoulders of the largest of "three 
brothers " — the wave that will carry her so high upon the 
shore that the next wave will not reach her, and thus 
afford the crew a moment in which to escape. " Steady ! 
Steady ! Not too fast," says an old sailor on the shore. 
For if the boat gets too far upon said "brother's " shoul- 
ders she will pitch over and be buried in an instant. 
Neither must the boat lag behind his shoulders, for if 
she does the receding wave will swamp her. Her sail is 
raised or lowered, by the inch, to keep balanced on that 
giant wave. " She rides ! She rides ! " says another, 
while others stand in breathless silence, and the critical 
instant of life or death hastens — the great wave breaks 
upon the shore amid' the howling winds — the fisherman's 
boat is left there, and the crew are saved, while the "big 
brother " retires to the deep, like the whale that landed 

Such, for scores of years, had been the perilous landing, 
at many times, on Block Island. But now how changed ! 
The boats are more safe in going to a distance, for if a 
storm arises they fly to the Harbor like doves to their 
windows, and such joyful expressions as have been seen 
there no pen can describe, as the frail boats have reached 
the quiet water and anchored, or tied up in safety. There, 
too, the steamboat moors at the wharf, and tens of thou- 
sands visit the Island now, instead of the occasional stran- 
ger in years previous to the Harbor. 


Not the least improvement on the Island is one of the 
latest — the removal of the old fish houses, in the winter 
of 18*77. For nearly a century they had stood on the 
bank in front of the Pole Harbor, and had done too good 
service to be despised. In them, generations now gone 
did much to rear the present inhabitants, as well as to 
feed millions abroad. But they were no better than their 
occupants who grew old, retired, and disappeared from 
the places afterwards occupied by those more youthful. 
So the modern spirit of improvement has freed the bank 
from what was latterly deemed an eye-sore and a nuisance 
by visitors, to whom the first impression on visiting the 
Island hereafter will be much more pleasing than formerly. 
The new houses erected under the bank west of that Basin 
will be more convenient for the fishermen, and far less 
offensive to strangers. It is hoped that Mr. Nicholas Ball 
may live many years to continue his improvements. 


The Rev. George "Wheeler, present pastor of the Free- 
will Baptist Church of Block Island, claims the merit of 
originating the first steamboat excursion to this place. 
He was then a grocer in Providence, in 1853, and char- 
tered the steamer Argo for^ the purpose. She brought 
two hundred and fifty excursionists, and by her trip 
cleared eighty dollars for the benefit of the first meeting- 
house, then in process of erection, built by said church. 
The steamer anchored in the Bay, and the passengers 
were landed by row boats. 


In 1857 there were five district schools on the Island, 

and at that time the School Commissioner reported them 

to be ''as good schools as those in any of the country 

towns in the State." The same schools are still main- 


tained. Since the former date two new, modern school- 
houses have taken the places of the old ones. The one 
on the Neck is large and well-furnished, and was built but 
a few years ago. The new one on the West Side was 
built in the fall of 1876, and is a great improvement on 
its predecessor. The building of other school- houses 
soon is contemplated, and needful. 

A new stimulus for improvement has been given to the 
district schools by the establishment of a school of a 
higher grade, thus gratifying the natural love of promo- 
tion, by higher attainments. 

Island High Schools. 

A school of advanced grade has long been talked of as 
greatly needed in New Shoreham. The first step towards 
establishing one was a vote of the town in 1874, giving 
the free use of the town hall to any one who would take 
the responsibility of the enterprise. 

In the summer of 1875, Prof. S. A. Snow, principal of 
the high school at Oxford, Mass., canvassed Block Island, 
with the intention of opening a school; but decided that, 
without aid from the town, the undertaking would be 
impracticable. In town meeting, October, 1875, a motion 
to appropriate money for the above-named purpose was 
lost, and the project was accordingly abandoned. 

During the same October, the town was again can- 
vassed, this time by A. W. Brown, of Middletown, R. L, 
who offered to open the school at a tuition-rate of ten 
dollars per pupil, provided that twenty-five pupils should 
be assured, or a part of that number, and pecuniary aid 
to supply the deficiency. Nineteen pupils were promised 
for one year. The amount wanting was divided into six 
shares, the total not to exceed two hundred and forty 
dollars, and to be diminished by the amount paid by any 
additional pupils obtained. 


Messrs. Lorenzo Litilefield, Nicholas Ball, William P. 
Lewis, Hiram Ball, and Arthur W. Brown took the re- 
sponsibility of one share to each; the remaining sixth 
was assumed by Messrs. Alvin H. Sprague and Thomas 
H. Mann, M. D. 

On Monday, Nov. 29, 1875, the Island High School 
was opened at the town hall, which had been fitted up 
for the purpose. Edith Ball, Adrietta P. Ball, Annie I. 
Mitchell, Annie Payne, Addie Smith, Ray G. Lewis, 
Schuyler C. Ball, Erwin Ball, Hamilton Mott, and William 
T. Dodge, entered at the beginning of the first term, during 
which the number increased to sixteen. 

The second term opened, on Feb. 14, 1876, with in. 
creased advantages. Rough pine tables had been used 
before; but now these gave place to handsome tables of 
ash, well made, and convenient. A first class orchestral 
organ was procured for the use of the school. Miss Kate 
L. Backus, of Ashford, Conn., was employed to assist in 
the work of the school, to teach instrumental and vocal 
music. The school increased rapidly in efficiency, and 
gave, at the close of the term, a successful exhibition, 
and has continued with varying but ever-improving for- 
tunes to the end of the sixth term (Feb. 3, 1877). 

Reports have been given to the pupils at the end of 
each five weeks of term time. In these, the amount of 
previous training received by each pupil is taken into 
consideration. The abilities of pupils are not compared, 
but account is taken of the manner in which their powers 
are exerted, and of deportment. The following are the 
names of those who have ranked first, second, or third in 
either of the reports issued: Addie Smith, Annie Payne, 
William T. Dodge, Annie I. Mitchell, Clarence Littlefield, 
Ray G. Lewis, Fanny Payne, and Frank Littlefield. 

The following-named pupils have been noted, while at- 
tending the school, for unexceptionally good behavior: 


Addie Smith, Ray G. Lewis, Annie Payne, C. Ellie 
Champlin, Fanny Payne, Grace E. Jelly, and Isaac S. 

Most of the old pupils are still in attendance, and other 
names have been added to the roll. The name of one 
beloved of all is now graven on one of the stones that 
dot the neighboring burial hill. Thomas J. Rose left 
Block Island, at the close of the summer term of 1876, 
to pass the long vacation with relatives in Newport. 
Returning to attend school at the beginning of the fall 
term, he was stricken by diphtheria^ and died Sept. 12th. 
The members of the school stood by the grave as the 
body of their playmate was committed to the earth. He 
rests, well, within view of the ocean which he always 
loved, and which soothed him in his sickness by the 
solemn slow song of its waves. 

In closing this sketch, it is only necessary to add that 
the Island High School, now firmly established, is in good 
working condition; and there is every prospect that it 
will grow in numbers and in usefulness. Thus the zeal 
and competency of its principal, Mr. Arthur W. Brown, 
joined with the enterprise of the Islanders, have raised a 
standard of education on Block Island which fulfills the 
wish and the prophecy of an able writer and visitor here 
in 1860, Y\^ho said, "One further improvement seems to 
be demanded, and as this necessity is felt by the most 
intelhgent Islanders, I trust it may soon be made; and 
that is, the permanent estahlishment of one school of a higher 
grade, so located that each district can contribute its quota 
of advanced scholars annually. There is the material 
here, the demand for it, and, I trust, the wiU.^^ (W. H. 
Potter.) Large universities have had smaller beginnings, 
and it is hoped that this High School may be a perennial 
fountain of pure learning to the rising generations. 



On Saturday evening, March 6, 1875, at a meeting of 
ladies and gentlemen who were interested in obtaining 
better advantages for intellectual improvement than were 
then enjoyed upon Block Island, and who believed that a 
public library would furnish larger privileges to that end, 
an organization was formed, under the name of ''The 
Island Library xAssociation. " At this meeting, held at 
the office of Dr. T, H. Mann, a constitution was adopted, 
creating the various offices of the association, specifying 
the duties of each officer, and providing for his proper 
election, and the election of successors. By-laws were 
passed, providing for the proper care of the library; and 
for an annual tax of one dollar for each gentleman, and 
of fifty cents for each lady. 

The following are the names of the members who 
assisted in the organization : Mrs. Wm. P. Ball, Mrs. 
Nicholas Ball, Miss Effie Ball, Mrs. Herman A. Mitchell, 
Mrs. Charles Willis, Mrs. John Hayes, Jr., Misses Alice 
Lewis, Charity Ball, and Mary T. Rose; Messrs. T. H. 
Mann, Daniel Mott, James Hammond, Ralph E. Dodge, 
Amos D. Mitchell, J. W. Smith, Burton Dodge, James E. 
Mitchell, Howard Millikin, Robinson Lewis, Marcus M. 
Day, Nicholas Ball, Orlando Willis, Aaron W. Mitchell, 
John W. Milhkin, Chester E. Rose, Edwin A. Dodge, 
William C. Card, WiUiam M. Rose, Everett Millikin, and 
Leander A. Ball. 

At the first meeting, the following officers were elected : 

President — Thomas H. Mann, M. D. 

Vice-President — Marcus M. Day. 

Secretary — Orlando Willis. 

Librarian and Treasurer — Halsey C. Littlefield. 

Board of Trustees — Thomas H. Mann, Orlando Willis, 
Wilham C. Card, Mrs. Wilham P. Ball, and Mrs. John 
Hayes, Jr. 


Some fifty dollars were subscribed; the constitution 
and by-laws were printed; but during the summer, the 
matter received no attention. 

The next winter, the subject was again agitated, and, 
in January an attempt was made to procure funds. This 
time the efforts made were more successful. His Excel- 
lency, Gov. Henry Lippitt, and Mr. Rowland Rose, both 
of Providence, gave twenty-five dollars each. Subscrip- 
tions of ten dollars were received from Prof. Eben 
Tourjee of Boston University; from Messrs. "Whitford, 
Aldrich & Co., Hartwell & Richards, and Congdon & 
Aylesworth of Providence; and from Mr. Lorenzo Little- 
field of New Shoreham. Messrs. WilHam P. Lewis, Alvin 
H, Sprague, William P. Ball, John G-. Sheffield, and 
Arthur "W, Brown, gave five dollars apiece. Fifty-eight 
others subscribed sums varying from fifty cents to three 
dollars, Hon. Nicholas Ball gave seventy-eight books, and 
a donation of fifty standard Enghsh works was received 
from Mr. Amos D. Mitchell, proprietor of the Providence 
House. Prof. Eben Tourjee, of Boston University, prom- 
ised one hundred volumes ; Hon, Wm. P. Sheffield of 
Newport, promised one hundred volumes as soon as the 
library should number four hundred volumes. 

On the evening of Friday, February 24, 1876, the asso- 
ciation met and elected as 

President — T. H. Mann, M. D. 

Vice-President — Nicholas Ball. 

Secretary — Charles E. Perry. 

Lihrarian and Treasurer — Arthur W. Brown. 

Board of Trustees^T. H. Mann, C. E. Perry, Alvin H. 
Sprague, Mrs. L. Littlefield, and Miss Alice Lewis. 

The library, numbering two hundred and fifty volumes, 
had been arranged in a neat case made by Leander A. 
Ball and located at the town hall. After the abovemen- 
tioned election of officers, some forty volumes were dis- 

MUSIC. 225 

tributed. Since that time the Ubrary has been in constant 
use, and has grown rapidly. Hon. William P. Sheffield 
has given one hundred and thirty -four volumes, thus more 
than making good his promise. Other donations have 
been received from Messrs. T. W. Higginson, D. C. Den- 
ham, and Jas. E, Hammond of Newport; from Messrs. 
Samuel Austin, T. B. Stockwell, and J. C. Greenough of 
Providence; and from Mr. C. E. Perry of New Shore- 
ham. Large additions have also been made by purchase. 

The library now contains more than five hundred 
volumes ; it is doing a good work, and it is hoped will 
long continue to grow. Donations of books from the 
friends of learning may be of great service in this iso- 
lated community. 

It is due to Mr. Arthur W. Brown, Principal of the 
Island High School, the first of that grade ever opened 
on the Island, to say here that he originated the plan of 
this first public library on the Island, and that chiefly by 
his enterprise it has become a valuable institution. 


Although we have no evidence that Block Island was 
anciently one of the isles of the sirens where ships were 
charmed ashore by the sweetness of music, yet here is 
found more than an ordinary natural talent for the art 
most captivating. Voices full and rich in melody here 
are in need of nothing but culture to make them distin- 
guished. Not a native of the Island can sing by note 
independently, and yet the church singing is truly musical 
and devotional, inflenced more by the movements of the 
sea than by the songs of the birds. Nor is this undulating 
movement of the good old tunes disagreeable. It is 
simply natural, and not artistic. 

Instrumental music, until recently, was limited to the 
fife, flute, drum, and violin, the latter being in demand in 


the time of horseback rides, pillions, and private house 
dancing after a husking. We have no knowledge of any 
Islander who has excelled in music or poetry. Indeed, 
we know of but one who ever attempted poetry, and he 
died over a hundred years ago. His poetry was adapted 
to his music, as one might judge of the accounts of both. 
Rev. Samuel Mies, a native of the Island, while pastor 
of the church in Braintree, Mass., had a contest with his 
church about singing by note. His church made arrange- 
ments to do so. The Sabbath came ; the church assembled ; 
but no minister appeared. He was informed that "they 
were all present before God to hear all things which were 
commanded him of God." His reply was that "he would 
not preach in the meeting-house unless they would sing 
hy rotey There is some of his sentiment on the Island, 
which it would be well to overcome by a few good singing- 
schools in winter after the boats are hauled up. The 
poetry of Mr. Niles indicates his musical culture; for 
example : 

" A cannon splitting slew brave Captain Hale, 
Worthy esteem, whose death all do bewail ; 
Brigadier Dwight here stands in honor high. 
Colonel o'er train of the artillery." 

Music by note is what the Islanders need to give scope 
to their rich, melodious voices. Then they will have an 
independence and harmony which they cannot otherwise 
obtain. Towards this point they are evidently aiming, 
for there are now among their families six pianos, and 
eighteen organs, and the young are learning with com- 
mendable progress. 


While Block Island is destitute of forest groves of large 
and small trees, it is erroneous to report, as some have, 
that it is entirely destitute of them. Many houses and 
yards are adorned with them, and instead of there being 


none, the ornamental and fruit trees of the Island, though 
small, may be counted by thousands. During the past 
few years the nursery-men from abroad have been here 
repeatedly, and have driven quite a lively bisisiness. 
Those who come here only in the mild zephyrs of sum- 
mer have not the faintest idea of the severity of the 
wintry winds upon the trees, even stripping them, some- 
times, of their green leaves, in the early autumn, and 
literally whipping the limbs to death before spring. But 
little, if any, more beautiful apples were seen at the Cen- 
tennial than grevv^ in the same year on a tree in Mr. Lo- 
renzo Littlefield's orchard — several barrels on the same 
tree. A greatly increased interest is taken in the culture 
of fruit, and with proper patience and energy the best of 
apples, pears, and quinces, and cherries might be produced, 
as well as the smaller fruits. The hardier fir trees might 
be made to enclose a plat that would thus be protected 
from the bleak winds, and within the enclosure luxuries 
of fruit could be obtained to which the children of the 
Island are too great strangers. 


It is comparatively but a short time since the attractions 
of Block Island have been made public. The little open 
boats from here, occasionally seen mooring at the wharves 
of Newport, Stonington, New London, and Norwich, 
laden with fish and produce, and sometimes with oxen, 
cows, calves, sheep, fowls, and men and women, some 
lowing, some bleating, some crowing and cackling, and 
others talking and laughing while on their voyage, were 
not the best advertisement for strangers accustomed to 
palace cars and the elegant saloons of steamers. From 
what they saw they greatly misjudged the Island and its 
inhabitants. This, it may safely be said, thousands have 
since acknowledged. Nor was it for the interest of neigh- 


boring places of resort to speak of the attractions of 
Block Island, but rather to point out what of it was repul- 
sive. The very sight of the Island, as seen by those 
passing Sandy Point, repelled, for many scores of years, 
rather than attracted strangers. Its destitution of trees, 
its unpretentious buildings, its shores unfrequented by 
shipping, with here and there its little pinnaces fishing, 
and these Ipng bottom up, in the winter, on the land, 
while there were no public works during the cold season 
to indicate hfe and enterprise — these gave the impression 
to strangers which the poet has expressed in the triplet: 

" Lonely and wind-shorn, wood-forsaken, 
With never a tree for spring to waken, 
Por tryst of lovers or farewells taken " 

But occasionally health and pleasure-seekers who cared 
less for the gaudy shows of fashionable resorts than for 
the pleasures of Nature's walks, halls, and parlors — fields 
under the great blue dome, where none breathe the un- 
healthy odors of gas and kerosene lights, where none 
require fans in the heated days and evenings of summer, 
and where all experience the truth that exercise along the 
sea shore, in the pure sea breeze, gives a relish to food 
which all the sweets and spices of the Indies cannot afford, 
and a refreshing to sleep that makes one feel like saying 
in the morning from his very heart, "So He giveth his 
beloved sleep," a few such, not many years ago, looked 
across the waters to Block Island and imagined that here 
was a desirable place for rest and recuperation. One such 
seeker, a distinguished resident of one of the cities of 
New York, stopping at a large hotel on the main, occasion- 
ally looked through his glass towards Block Island, 
apparently a speck away out at sea, and inquired of the 
proprietor: "What is that away there?" "0, that is 
nothing but Block Island — a little sandy place," was the 
reply. The inquirer decided that he vv'ould see that 


" little sandy place," and improved the first opportunity, 
and instead of sand, found beautiful fertile fields; instead 
of a land breeze much of the time, he found a pure salt- 
air sea breeze refreshing, and coohng night and day; 
instead of fish that had been caught several days and 
kept on ice, his table was furnished with the best direct 
from the ocean, and from that time he has been an annual 
visitor, bringing with him his many excellent friends each 
summer. Thus others have come, and induced their 
acquaintances to follow, until one steamer, the Canonicus, 
in 1875, brought to the Island over 10,000 passengers. 
Add to these the visitors by the steamer Ella, from Nor- 
wich, Connecticut; those by Capt. Card's Yacht, and 
others on excursions from various cities, loading their 
steamers down to the water's edge, and also 'the elegant 
pleasure yachts from abroad, and some estimate can be 
made of the visitors to Block Island. 

The character of these visitors is an item of interest. 
From the glimpses which the writer has had of fashion- 
able resorts, he is certain that the Block Island visitors 
are sui generis. If they have airs at home they lose them 
before landing here, and while remaining breathe an air 
of health and freedom. If they are wealthy there, they 
make but a modest shov/ of it here. If they are cramped 
and fettered there by the conventionalities of societies, as 
an English orator said of slaves and England, their fetters 
fall from them as soon as they step foot upon these shores. 
That they are well bred is evident to a competent ob- 
server. They are the solid men and women of the most 
moral circles of the country. The faster sort, if they 
come at all, tarry but briefly. For such the social atmos- 
phere is not congenial either from the great majority of 
visitors, or from the Islanders. Intemperance is not toler- 
ated. A few with plenty of money, desirous of a plenty 
of liquor, have tried the Block Island hotels, and very 


soon have been asked to settle their bills. And yet, inno- 
cent, healthful amusements are common here. Some of 
the best families in the country are annual visitors to the 
Island, from many different cities and villages. It is a 
favorite resort for many from Norwich and Hartford, 
Conn.; Troy, N. Y.; Philadelphia; Washington, D. C; 
and New York city. Professor Joseph Henry of the 
Smithsonian Institute, Judge Ingalls of Troy, N. Y., and 
others of like distinction have spent so many summers, 
or parts of them, at Block Island that they seem here 
almost like citizens. 

President Grant's visit formed an item of history. 
This occurred on the 18th of August, 1875. Such swell- 
ing accounts of it have been read in the newspapers that 
a truthful one can hardly expect to be credited. He was 
on a brief tour in New England; stopped at Bristol, R. I. 
and through Senators H. B. Anthony and Major General 
Burnside was invited by Hon. Nicholas Ball to visit Block 
Island. On the 18th the revenue cutter Grant appeared 
in the offing, and soon anchored in the Bay. Two boats 
were lowered into which the President with his escort, 
Secretary Bristow, A'ttorney-General Pierrepont, Senators 
Anthony and Burnside, and others entered and were 
rowed into the Harbor by the well trained mariners, while 
all the available flags were flying. The presidential party 
were all obliged to cUmb over the decks of two vessels 
before reaching the wharf, where the President was wel- 
comed by Hon. N. Ball, and escorted to the Ocean View 
Hotel. Never, probably, was there less excitement on 
the arrival of so distinguished a visitor. Had it not been 
for the visitors present not a single hurrah would have 
been raised. It was singular as it was. Far more of the 
Islanders, a few days from that, were at the funeral of a 
pious young mother on the Neck. It is a pity that more 
of the children were not induced to meet the President, 


for their future gratification. He dined, shook hands 
with those introduced to him, affectionately beckoned to a 
bright Kttle girl to come to him, visited the new light- 
house, and took leave for Cape May about 3 p. m. 

Never before did the writer so fully understand the 
meaning of Peter's saying: ^'Lo, we have left all," as 
when he saw fishermen — good men too, mending their 
nets by the way-side, while the President was passing, 
without stopping to see him. Hon. Nicholas Ball, Hon. 
J. Gr. Sheffield, and others of the Islanders exerted them- 
selves commendably to show proper respect for national 
'' dignities." 



From its settlement in 1662, until the present, it has 
been essentially that of a miniature democracy. Its six- 
teen proprietors owned equal shares of the soil. Those of 
them who did not move to the Island with the settling 
party transferred their privileges here to their tenants. 
All were equals in civil rights, except as they conferred 
them temporarily upon one or more of their number. As 
Massachusetts had relinquished her claim upon the Island 
in favor of John Endicott, Richard Bellingham, Daniel 
Dennison, and AVilliam Hawthorne, it became private 
property, and when, as such, it was sold to the settlers, 
they entered upon it as a private corporation, or compact 
of their own construction. Their civil and religious 
views were doubtless well known to Clarke and Williams, 
the founders of the Rhode Island colony, and therefore 
they had Block Island included in the charter which they 
and others obtained from Charles II, in J. 663. This 
charter secured for the Island the same polity granted to 
the said colony. In the first year's enjoyment of this 
charter James Sands and Joseph Kent, in behalf of the 
inhabitants of Block Island, petitioned the General Assem- 
bly of Rhode Island for civil protection and order, and 
were responded to by a committee, the chairman of which 
was Roger Williams, who most cordially conceded to the 
Islanders the boon which he had so anxiously sought for 
himself, namely, a civil freedom that should exercise no 
authority over the religious convictions of any so long as 


those convictions did not disturb the peace of community. 
Hence in his report to the Assembly it is said: ''At 
present this General Assembly judgeth it their duty to 
signify His Majesty's pleasure vouchsafed in these words 
to us, verbatim, viz. : That no person within the said col- 
ony at any time hereafter, shall be in any ways molested, 
punished, disquieted, or called in question for any differ- 
ence of opinion in matters of religion, and do not actu- 
ally disturb the civil peace of the said colony." This 
was so harmonious with the Islanders that they sought a 
union with the whole colony which greeted them in the 
language of the Assembly thus: ''Our well beloved 
friends and countrjTuen, the inhabitants of Block Island." 
In May, 1664, the Assembly appointed James Sands 
and Thomas Terry, and impowered them to call a meet- 
ing of the Islanders who w^ere to choose a third man as 
their assistant in the local government of the Island. 
These three were authorized to call public meetings from 
time to time for mutual regulations and safety; to engage 
a constable, and clerk; to grant warrants, and try cases 
in which was involved not more than the value of " forty 
shiUings," and also to grants appeals to the General Court 
of the colony. In 1665, the inhabitants elected their 
first representatives, James Sands and Thomas Terry. In 
1672 they also petitioned for their incorporation as a 
town, and received their charter as such. From that time 
until the present they have elected their representatives 
and town officers by the vote of the majority of their 
freemen. That charter required two wardens, first, and 
deputy wardens, and to these, "three wise, honest men " 
were to be added, by a majority vote, to constitute the 
Town Council. Thus, up to the Revolution, with a voice 
in the General Assembly, and with the privilege of self- 
government at home, during a period of one hundred 
years. Block Island enjoyed all the freedom and inde- 


pendence that it desired, bearing its proportion of State 
taxes, paying £29 in the year 1700, and relying upon the 
same protection from the colony accorded to other towns. 
In this respect it was sadly disappointed during the War 
of the Revolution. Though abandoned to the cruelties of 
the enemy it ever maintained its principles of civil and 
rehgious freedom, and of self-government, and was none 
the less loyal at the close of that struggle than were other 
towns of the colony more highly favored. Its civil polity 
of exercising its own freedom in choice of its rulers; of 
maintaining religious freedom; and of unity with the 
colony, and the Republic at large, has remained kindred 
and cotemporary with the fundamental principles of the 
colony founded by Roger Williams. In 1783 it was 
granted the special privilege of choosing Ray Sands, a 
citizen of South Kingston, to represent the Island in the 
General Assembly, and also of subsequently choosing 
" any person, being a freeman in any town in the State, 
who is seized in his own right of a freehold estate in the 
said town of New Shoreham, to represent them in Gen- 
eral Assembly." This was granted on account of the 
inconvenience of passing from the Island to the main- 

The following extracts from the ancient records of the 
Island are here given as illustrations of the foregoing 
and as historical facts interesting also as items of antiquity. 


Town Officers in 1676. 

Peter George, Head Warden. 
Simon Ray, Deputy Warden. 
James Sands, Assistant Warden. 
Robert Guthrig, '' " 

Turmot Rose, " '' 

Robert Guthrig, Town Clerk. 


Williain Tosh, Constable. 
Trustom Dodge, Sen. Sergeant. 

Quarterly meetings that year were held at the house of 
the head warden, Peter George; and a special court was 
called by John Williams. In 1674 there were thirty 

Town Officers in 1700. 

Simon Ray, Head Warden. 
Joshua Raymond, Deputy Warden. 
Nathaniel Mott, Town Clerk. 
James Danielson, Sergeant. 
Edward Mott, Constable. 
Thomas Rathbone, First Townsman. 
Job Card, Second Townsman. 

In the year 1700 the freemen of the Island were be- 
tween thirty and forty in number, and the population 
varied but little from 200. 

The freedom and independence of the Island were so 
great in 1692 that its inhabitants regulated the standard 
of their own currency. A parcel of land was then sold, 
and the following articles in payment were called specie. 
The amount to be paid was £175, and to be ''In spetia 
hereafter mentioned, viz.: In pork at three pounds per 
barrel, in beef at thirty-five shillings per barrel; all such 
as shall pass the packer at Boston. Wheat at four shil- 
lings per bushel; barley at three shillings per bushel, 
all merchantable and clean; butter at sixpence per pound; 
tallow at fivepence per pound ; all new milk cheese at 
fivepence per pound." All of these articles were legal 
tender, at some price, and hence were called "spetia." 

During the same year the authorities of the Island 
summoned a jury of inquest on the body of Tepague^ an 
Indian from Long Island. 

In the vear 1701 the inhabitants banished from the 


Island one William Preshur and his wife for their immor- 
ality, or poverty. 

In 1708 the freedom of the ballot-box was enforced by 
the following act: "That all the freeholders and freemen 
of Shorum shall personally appear at each respective 
quarter meeting, and there to attend to business of the 
day according to the charter or privilege of Shorum, 
upon the penalty of five shillings for every officer's not 
appearing, and 25. 6d. per day for each freeman's not 
appearing according to warrant." 

During that year a poor tax of £24 was levied and 
raised by the town. 

In 1721 the town, in the following act, is seen to have 
been in a measure its own legislature: "That if any per- 
son or persons shall go through any man's land and shall 
leave open either bars or gate, or shall go through any 
man's fence without leave of the owner thereof, the per- 
son so offending shall pay ten shillings and moiety to the 
informer and the other moiety to the town." 

In March, 1683, the town donated four acres of land to 
a blacksmith, the first on the Island, by the name of 
William Harris. That year, too, it recognized the name 
*' Great Salt Pond," in 1636 mentioned by Roger Wil- 
liams as the "Great Pond." 

At the commencement of the Revolution the Island 
-was virtually banished from the colonies, and left a prey 
for the enemy. The inhabitants foresaw the tempest 
gathering and sure to break upon them and made provis- 
ion to bear it manfully, and to retain their chartered 
rights which they had faith to assure them would be en- 
joyed by them again after the storm of war had passed 
over. Accordingly, on the 9th of January, 1776, they 
put upon record the following: " Voted and resolved that 
all the town records, and all the other papers in the Clerk's 
Office that relate to the town be immediately sent by the 


Town Clerk to Paul Niles, in Charlestown, requesting 
him by a letter to have care of them. 

John Sands, Esq., Moderator. 

Walter Rathbone, Town Clerk." 


Charlestown lies directly north of Block Island, and is 
the nearest land to the latter. 

During the long struggle for independence, the inhab- 
itants of Block Island, with no earthly ally, amenable to 
no higher civil authority than its own, except as claimed 
by Great Britain to belong to its crown, enjoyed and ex- 
hibited all the fundamental principles of a pure democ- 
racy. Whether familiar with any treatises of jurispru- 
dence, like those of Justinian, Vattel, or Blackstone — 
whether they had ever seen a civil code or not, they cer- 
tainly had a knowledge of human rights and duties, and 
they put that knowledge into practice in a manner that 
would have been a model for the sages of Athens and for 
the writer of our Declaration of Independence. The town 
records of this little, forsaken, war-pillaged Island in sight 
and hearing of the wrathful guns booming on the main, 
show a love of freedom and a faith in its attainment that 
were marvelous. The following may be taken as an 
index of the same, and also as an illustration of the clear 
and just views here entertained of the true civil polity 
for the attainment and maintenance of which they mutu- 
ally, man by man, laid their lives upon freedom's altar. 
They said, — 

^'At a Town Meeting held in New Shoreham, Aug. IJ^^ 1779. 

John Sands, Moderator. 
" Whereas the safety and well-being of society depend 
entirely under God upon the legal and strict administra- 
tion of justice, and the execution of good order and 
wholesome laws: and 


'^Whereas the critical situation of this Island is such, 
and in all probability will continue during the present 
contest between Great Britain and the United American 
States, as to render it impossible to have the same protec- 
tion and security from the laws of our country and the 
courts of justice established in this colony or State, as 
before the commencement of the present war which must 
in its consequences render the persons and properties of 
the inhabitants very insecure: 

''We have therefore thought proper for the preserva- 
tion, protection, and security of our persons and proper- 
ties, to adopt the regulations contained in the following 
resolutions which we conceive to be warrantable upon 
the principles of self-preservation and the good of society." 

The above preamble was followed by a series of resolu- 
tions of which the following is an abstract: 

^^ First: That two assistant wardens be elected, and to 
have the same power as the head warden formerly had — the 
three to transcend the town charter, in judging of actions 
involving more than ^ forty shillings, ' and also in deciding 
upon criminal actions. 

^^ Second : That said wardens be a civil court to deter- 
mine all civil and criminal SiCtions luithout appeal ; and in 
trials for life said wardens to summon to sit with them 
six freeholders, making a court of nine, a majority of 
whom made the decision final, without appeal 

^'Third: Said freeholders to be finable £20 each for 

"Fourth: That said court be guided by State laws as 
far as possible, except in trial for life^ in which case pro- 
ceedings were to be ' according to law and evidence. ' 

"Fifth: When there were no laws to guide the wardens 
they were to act according to the best of their knowledge 
of the laws of the land." 

To the above was added the following : 


'' We do further resolve in the most solemn manner 
that we will at the hazard of our lives and fortunes give 
every assistance, aid, and support to the wardens, assist- 
ant wardens, and other civil officers, in the execution of 
their offices in the legal administration of justice, and in 
the execution of the laws of the land, and in the execu- 
tion of whatever regulations have been or may be adopted 
by this town for the preservation, protection, and support 
of the persons and properties of the good people of this 

During the same meeting at which the above was 
adopted by the citizens of Block Island, they proceeded to 
act upon town matters with as little apparent trepidation 
as though they were wielding the power of a nation, 
although they were trampling upon the crown of England, 
transcending greatly their colonial charter, and were 
liable any day to be invaded by a British fleet. On that 
day they said in their records: 

" Whereas the native Indians being extinct in the town 
of New Shoreham that had claims in and to the land com- 
monly called and known by the name of Indian Land, situ- 
ate, lying, and being on the West Side, &c." This land was 
sold for town purposes. 

All through the Revolution, town meetings were held, 
officers elected, good order maintained, real estate transac- 
tions occurred, marriages and deaths and births recorded, 
wills were made, the poor cared for, taxes assessed and 
collected, estates inventoried and recorded, and not a com- 
plaint of hardships, nor a word of doubt of ultimate 
triumph of our armies in the struggle for independence. 
After the war, families that had fled to the main returned, 
the old paths of civil order were resumed, the above rules 
of necessity were abrogated, the charter of 1672, and its 
subordinate laws have been followed, and Block Island 


to-day bids fair to compete in good order, enterprise, and 
prosperity, successfully with lier sister towns of the State. 


This is the name commonly applied to a portion of Block 
Island which was set apart, by the suggestion of Simon 
Ray, at the time of surveying the land for settlement, as 
a means of supporting the gospel on the Island. In the 
original compact of the first purchasers were included 
these words: 

" That there should a quantity or portion of land he laid 
out for the help and nfiaintenance of a minister^ and so con- 
tinue for that use forever. ^^ 

In that original survey made by the proprietors of the 
Island, in 1661, the portion above-mentioned was sur- 
veyed or laid out, and named, on the plot designating the 
various divisions, "Minister's Land," and it was also 
designa.ted as "Lot 15." This land is located on the 
northerly part of the Island, and extends from the east 
shore of the Island to the east shore of the Great Pond, 
and contains about fifty acres. Mr. Simon Ray Sands 
has in his possession a copy of the original plotting of the 
Island for its sixteen proprietors, and said copy shows the 
boundaries of the Minister's Land. 

In the year 1691, thus early, the town began to reap 
the avails of this land. In that year was made the fol- 
lowing town record, as a lease to Mr. John Dodge, leas- 
ing to him "the whole use of all the minister's share of 
uplands and meadow upon this Island, excepting the five 
acre meadow lott in Edward Ball's improvement; and he 
hath promised to pay to the town council for the use and 
benefit of this Island, the sum of forty shillings to be pay 
in current pay equivalent to money by the middle of next 
December ensuing." 

At the same town meeting it was voted, "That John 

THE minister's LOT OR LAND. 241 

Dodge shall have the four-acre lott that belonged to the 
Minister's part, at five shillings per year for two years — 
or any other person. John Dodge refusing, William 
Rathbone to succeed him in it and to have said land two 
years, to pay five shillings per year, and to lay it plain, 
fit for mowing — to pay equivalent to money." 

From the above we learn that nearly one hundred and 
ninety years ago the town recognized certain lots as the 
"Minister's Land," and that this land was in three divi- 
sions, one lai^ge lot, one of five acres, and another of four 
acres. The distinction also of "uplands," has reference 
to the large lot lying between the Neck road and the east 

In 1756, according to an old "memorandum of Block 
Island," in the 1 0th Vol. of the Mass. Hist. Col., this land 
for the support of the gospel received considerable atten- 
tion. It says: "There is a ministry lot on Block Island 
which rents for 400/., old tenor per annum. Mr. Max- 
field received part of it A. D. 1756." The four hundred 
pounds were equal to $50.00. Indeed, over a hundred 
years ago, this appropriation of land for the support of a 
minister on Block Island was so well known abroad that 
it gave character and name to the whole Island which was 
called by some, then, the "Ministerial Lands." 

As there was no organized church to take the supervi- 
sion of this land, at the time of the settlement, the town 
assumed its supervision. And here, be it remembered, 
the first settlers were not all projorietors, the proprietors who 
donated said land. By a comparison of the names of the 
original donators of this land with the first settlers, it will 
be seen that one-half of the latter may have come as 
tenants, or as second purchasers, and these latter, by no 
subsequent act could change that first compact which ap- 
propriated the land and its avails. In other words, that 
appropriation was a grant for a specified purpose, and to 


^^ continue for that use forever.'''' This grant was like those 
made in England about one thousand years ago, and have 
been known as church property which may be rented, but 
not deeded away; nor can the avails of such land be law- 
fully appropriated to town or individual purposes instead 
of the one specified in the original grant. 

It may be an interesting task, at some future day, to 
examine the Block Island town records to see what the 
town has done with the Minister's Land, and to ascertain 
how large a sum of principal and interest may have accum- 
mulated in the town's treasury as moneys received from 
the said land, moneys not used for the '^ maintenance of a 
minister." Under the town management parcels of said 
land have passed into the continued occupancy of individ- 
uals, and the income from the part still designated as the 
"Minister's Lot," has dwindled to the sum of about fifty 
dollars a year. This sum is divided between the two 
churches of the Island. No other so good land, and so 
beautifully located, on the Island produced so little in- 
come, or could be hired for the same money. Lands each 
side of it, of the same quantity, probably could not be 
rented for five times the sum of fifty dollars. 

That a better use of this land could and should be 
made, is certain. According to the value of other lands, 
the Minister's Land ought to be worth $4,000, yes, much 
more than this, if that deeded away be included. This 
price, by those who would like to obtain the land, of 
course, be spoken of in the old words: -'It is naught ! 
It is naught!" (Prov. 20: 14.) But when the price of 
land just over the fence is considered, the above state- 
ment will not appear extravagant. This land, like similar 
lands in other places, both in America and in England, 
can be leased for a term of centuries, although it cannot 
be deeded away, and most men would pay as much for a 
lease to run 999 years as for a deed. 

THE minister's LOT OR LAND. 243 

An effort was made in the year 1875 to secure a larger 
income from the Minister's Land. A meeting, on the 4th 
of May, 1875, was held at the First Baptist Church of 
Block Island, at which a historical sketch of the said land 
was presented by the pastor, and there thirty-six of its 
members signed the following: "We the undersigned, 
members of the First Baptist Church of New Shoreham, 
believe that the avails of the 'Minister's Lot,' originally 
numbered '15,' should be used for building a parsonage 
for said church, and for such other purpose as may be in 
harmony with the original grant of said lot No. '15,'. 
and we therefore mutually request a full attendance at a 
church meeting to be held on the 29th inst. at 7.30 o'clock, 
at our house of worship, then and there to take such 
action in the matter as may be deemed best for the cause 
of our Lord and Master." 

Accordingly, on the 29th mentioned the church passed 
certain resolutions, and appointed a committee to carry 
them into action, an account of which may be seen on the 
church record. 

No report has been made from said committee, and no 
parsonage is yet built, although two are greatly needed, 
and many persons desire to be free from any course that 
shall look like that of Ananias and Sapphira who '' kept 
back part of the price.'' 



Pious families were among the first settlers of Block 
Island. Before they saw it they assigned a portion of its 
soil for a perpetual support of the gospel. The instruc- 
tions to the surveyor to set bounds to their homes also 
authorized him to bound the "Minister's Land." They 
were evidently kindred spirits of Roger Williams, with 
whom they associated freely. The historian Mies, a 
native of Block Island, personally acquainted with the 
first settlers, speaks in highest terms of the piety of four 
of the most influential of the earliest inhabitants. Of his 
grandfather, James Sands, he says: "He was the leading- 
man among them." " He also was a promoter of religion 
in his benefactions to the minister they had there in his 
day, though not altogether so agreeable to him as might 
be desired, as being inclined to the Anabaptist persuasion. 
He devoted his house for the worship of God where it 
was attended every Lord's day or Sabbath." The "min- 
ister " here mentioned was the writer himself. Rev. Samuel 
Niles who was a Congregationalist, ordained at Braintree, 
Mass., in 1711. He preached on Block Island only as a 
hcentiate. James Sands is above spoken of as an Ana- 
baptist, which meant then what the term Baptist do'es now, 
"and he did not differ in religious belief from the other 
settlers." — (ShefiQeld.) Mr. Sands, as the "leading man" 
of the Island, evidently had more influence as a Baptist 
than his grandson Niles had as a Congregationalist. Like 
Roger Williams, Mr. Sands defended the religious free- 


dom of those opposed to him in doctrine, as seen in his 
support of Mr. Niles. There were also others who 
planted the same seeds of freedom on the Island in the 
infancy of its society. They evidently believed that the 
doctrines and forms of religion were from God, and not 
from men, and that all Christians have a divine right to 
tell what they know of God's revelation to men without 
hinderance or permit from human orders. 

The Rays, Simon, and Siinon Jr., also exerted a power- 
ful religious influence on the early Islanders. Mr. Niles, 
their cotemporary, says of them: '^He and his son, as 
there was no minister in the place, were wont, in succes- 
sion, in a truly Christian, laudable manner, to keep a 
meeting in their own house on Lord's days, to pray, sing 
a suitable portion of the Psalms, and read in good sermon 
books, and, as they found occasion, to let drop some 
words of exhortation in a religious manner on such as 
attended their meeting." They were both what we now 
call ''lay preachers," and continued to exert their salutary 
influence more than ninety years, the father until his 
death in 1737, and the son until he died in 1755, up to 
which period we find no record of an organized church 
on the Island. It was probably visited by missionaries 

The first invitation of a minister to settle on Block 
Island was given to Mr. Samuel Niles in March 1700, 
who was then a young man and graduate from Harvard 
College. The invitation was not from a church, but from 
the town, and is here presented as a mirror of the society 
here then. 


"New Shoreham, March the 7th, 1700. 
"We, the inhabitants of said Island, being deeply sensi- 
ble of the great love of God in Christ Jesus in laying 


down his daily call to us to be providing for our souls to 
be fed with his heavenly manna, and for that end to be 
instructed by his word and to have our souls instructed 
and edified by him in his promises, that the word of God 
be preached and sounded forth in the purity of holiness 
according to the Scriptures. We, underwritten, being 
sensible that where we partake of the spiritual gifts be- 
stowed upon a teacher and minister of his word, so we 
ought to be liberal givers in our temporal, and for that 
end we have hereunto subscribed, do allot, and freely 
give up our right and interest in a certain piece of land 
being five or six acres more or less, as it shall hereafter be 
laid out by such men appointed for that end who are 
Simon Ray, Esqr., Joshua Raymond, Esqr., and Edward 
Ball, who after the laying out of the said land are ap- 
pointed to appraise the said land what it may be in value 
per acre, which said land we do freely give and bequeath 
the right and disposition thereof unto Samuel Niles and 
his heirs forever, for the use to build and erect a dwelling- 
house for him that he reside amongst us as a faithful 
minister and preacher of the gospel amongst us as God 
shall enable him, desiring God to endow him v/ith the 
most great and largest gifts of His Spirit which may 
prove to the drawing of our souls and the souls of such 
as may come under the power of his ministry to God, and 
for that end and furtherance in souls, a w^ork for his sus- 
tenance, we do acquit all claim to him said Niles and his 
heirs forever from any claim from us and our heirs for- 
ever to said land, and this said act to be a record of our 
gift as witness our hands. It is also to be understood 
that there is always and forever a drift-way through said 
land for egress and ingress to pass through by him said 
Niles and his heirs at all times forever, hanging of gates 
for that end that there may be a passing through as the 


way runs, or by the layers-out of said land may be set 
out for tbe use of the inhabitants of said Island." 

This was signed by twenty-eight freemen, ten by ''his 

On the following day Messrs. Ray, Ball, and Raymond, 
the committee appointed by the town, surveyed, or staked 
out the lot designated, lying east of the northerly part of 
the Fresh Pond, and Mr. Niles accepted a deed of the 
same, about seven acres in all. This land he retained 
several years after he left the Island, and sold it in 1716 
for £105. He wrote his history of the Indian and French 
wars in 1760, and died in 1762. In that history he fre- 
quently speaks of Block Island, of its religious leaders 
up to the year 1755, but says nothing of a church on the 
Island. There probably was none during his life-time, 
although for more than a century the leading men here 
were truly Christian, some of whom were lay preachers, 
and meanwhile there were temporary preachers from 
abroad. Mr. Niles preached about two years on the 
Island, and with reference to the remarkable escape from 
injury of the three Sands families coming from their 
homes on Sands Point, L. I., to Block Island, as their 
vessel was fearfully shattered by lightning, and no one 
hurt, on the following Sabbath he preached from the text : 
'^We7'e there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine .?" This 
was in the year 1702. 

According to a memorandum of the Rev. Dr. Stiles, 
Mr. Maxwell received part of the rents of the ''Ministry 
Lot," in the year 1756. In Sept., 1758, the Islanders 
"Resolved that Capt. Edward Sands, present town treas- 
urer, forthwith hire one hundred and twenty-four pounds 
in old tenor, and pay the same unto Mr. Samuel Maxwell 
for his serving as a minister in said town the last four 
months." 'We have learned of him but little. 

There was a meeting-house on Block Island in 1756. 


In 1758 the town voted to board up the "broken windows, 
which shows that it was unoccupied, and perhaps a mark 
for missiles. 

In 1759, June 25th, the town voted a proposal to Rev. 
David Sprague to become their minister, offering him the 
use of the three ministerial lots, and also the use of the 
''proprietors' land thereto adjoining, running southerly 
as far as the south end of the G-reat Fresh Pond," during 
his service. 

On the 28th of August, 1759, an amendment was made 
to a former vote, and it read thus: "So long as said 
David Sprague shall serve the inhabitants of the town by 
preaching to them the gospel of Christ according to the 
Scriptures of truth, making them and them only the rules 
of his faith, doctrine, and practice." This indicates 
clearly the persuasion of the people before they had an 
organized church. 

There was a town vote to repair the meeting-house in 
August, 1764, and another in April, 1766, and at the 
time of passing the latter it was voted that one acre of 
land be leased to Rev. David Sprague, M. D., " Ninety 
nine years for one barley-corn a year." His house was 
built upon this "acre," near the Precious Spring, on the 
east shore of Fresh Pond. This seems to have been 
about the time of commencing his pastoral labors on the 
Island, although in August, 1759, the town had 

"Resolved, that Capt. Robert Hull and Samuel Rathbone 
are chosen a committee to write to the Rev. David 
Sprague and give him with his wife and family an invita- 
tion to come and settle among us." 

On the 19th of April, 1775, the town repealed all the 
previous acts concerning the use of ministerial and town 
lands granted to "Dr. David Sprague." On the 29th of 
May following a similar vote was passed, appended to 
which was the statement that " Dr. David Sprague was 


about to remove from the Island." This left the sheep 
without a shepherd during the remainder of the Revolu- 
tion, except as they were ministered to by the abiding 
"Good Shepherd," and the faithful deacon, Thomas 

Under the call given to Mr. Sprague by the town he 
and a few baptized, believing members organized them- 
selves into a regular Baptist church, October 3, 1772, as 
seen in the records of the First Baptist church of New 

In 1772 a little band of Christians on the Island asso- 
ciated themselves in covenant relation for niutual watch- 
fulness and spiritual improvement. They were not for- 
merly organized as a church, and yet they were pledged 
to Grod and to each other to live "according to the rule 
and order of the gospel." They recognized no bishop, 
nor ecclesiastical body as their superior. They had a 
house of worship, made their own appointments, chose 
their own moderator and clerk, and exercised all that 
religious freedom in worship for which they well knew 
Roger Williams had contended so bravely,' and which the 
Islanders had enjoyed for more than a century. How 
long previous to 1772 they had been accustomed to main- 
tain covenant meetings, we are not able to say. From 
their record, commencing Sept. 3d, of that year, it is 
evident that such meetings had been customary. At that 
meeting their record says. " Bro. T. Dodge owned his 
covenant to God and hath renewed his fellowship with 
his brethren." The same was said of three other breth- 
ren, viz.: Trustom Dodge, Ezekiel Rose, and James Rose. 
To this it was added: "The following sisters, Catharine 
Adams, Mary Woodley, and Experience Sprague each 
owned their covenants and renewed their fellowship." 
Rev. David Sprague was present at this meeting, and also 
at adjourned meetings of Sept. 10th and 17th. At the 


latter he "read a copy of his ordination, which was sol- 
emnized July 12, 1739." 


At an adjourned meeting, October 3, 1772, they " Then 
read the articles of fellowship with one another, and then 
the church gave Elder Sprague the right hand of fellow- 
ship to administer the ordinances of God as an evangel- 
ist." Here we have the first mention of a "church," on 
Block Island. We see it self -organized, taking the Scrip- 
tures as their guide and rule of action, choosing their own 
minister, and by their act of giving him the " right hand 
of fellowship," exhibited their sense of equality with him 
in regard to religious freedom and ecclesiastical authority. 

The following names are included in the first church 
of Block Island, at the time of its organization, October 
3, 1772. 

Rev. David Sprague, Pastor. 

Lay Memhers. 

Thomas Dodge, Ezekiel Rose, James Rose, Henry 
Willis, Mercy Willis his wife, Hannah Dodge, and Mar- 
garet Franklin; eight in all, James Rose was the first 
church clerk. 

On the 2d of January, 1773, the pastor of this church 
"preached to show and prove by reason and the sacred 
Scriptures what a gospel church is, and when capable of 
discipline according to all the laws of Jesus Christ the 
King and Head of the church, and then proved by Scrip- 
ture that we are such a church." 

At this last-named meeting the pastor called upon each 
brother " to pass single before the Lord to see whether 
there was one in the church that was called of God to the 
office of a deacon." Thomas Dodge, in doing so, con- 
fessed his conviction that he was called of God to give 
himself up to the Lord for that service. Then the pastor, 


Mr. Sprague, "met him in a covenant way and declared 
that he believed that his dedication was of God, and gave 
him fellowship in the office of deacon." This office he 
held until 1784, and so well "used the office of a deacon " 
as to purchase for himself ''a good degree," for he was 
then ordained pastor of the church. Rev. David Sprague 
was the first pastor of it, and continued as such until 

Rev. Thomas Dodge, the second pastor, was a cotem- 
porary and intimate associate with the Baptist pastors who 
organized the Groton Union Conference soon after his 
ordination, at which one of them officiated, Isaiah Wilcox, 
who preached the ordination sermon, gave the chai:ge, 
and the right hand of fellowship, the deacons of the 
church, Oliver Dodge making the first prayer, and Dea. 
Trustom Dodge making the second. This occurred Aug. 
19, 1784, and on the first Sabbath in September following, 
Mr. Dodge administered the Lord's Supper. During his 
ministry of twenty years this church was one of the 
churches that composed the Groton Baptist Association, 
and continued such until 1834 when it was transferred 
from that association to the Warren Baptist Association. 

Rev. Thomas Dodge, above mentioned, was a man of 
sterhng worth, and is still remembered by some of the 
oldest inhabitants of the Island, where he was born in 
1737. He preached in the house of worship that stood 
near the Fresh Pond, and in that beautiful mirror reflect- 
ing the heavens he was wont to follow the example of 
his Lord. There, on the 13th day of November, 1784, he 
immersed his first candidate, Mercy Littlefield. He 
labored with his hands for his support, and while in ap- 
parent health and vigor suddenly died on the beach at 
the Harbor, November 11, 1804, in his sixty-seventh year. 
His grave in the Island cemetery is distinguished by an 
appropriate marble .slab. He was doubtless one of the 


main pillars of the church while deacon, during which 
time the Island was so fearfully scourged by the "War of 
the Revolution. During that period the church was 
greatly scattered, and Mr. Dodge probably followed the 
example of his excellent predecessor, the venerable Simon 
Ray, doing all the essential work of a pastor except the 
administering of the ordinances. 

On the day of Mr. Dodge's ordination the church 
adopted a series of articles of faith, eleven in all, and a 
solemn covenant to keep them in practice, and in fellow- 
ship with each other. A written copy of these articles is 
still in the possession of the same church. A few of 
them are here quoted as unequivocal evidence of the 
character of the first church of Block Island. 

First Article. '- We believe that the Scriptures of the 
Old and New Testaments are the words of God and the 
only rule of faith and practice." 

Fifth Article. " We believe that the justification of 
God's children or Believers, is only by the Righteousness 
of Christ imputed to them without the consideration of 
any works of Righteousness done by them, and that the 
full and free pardon of all their sins and transgressions 
past, present, and to come is only through the blood of 
Christ according to the riches of his grace." 

Sixth Article. " We believe the work of Faith, con- 
cerning regeneration, and sanctification, is not an act of 
man's free will and power, but of the mighty efficatious 
and attractive grace and power of God." 

Eighth Article. ''We believe that all those who are 
chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sancti- 
fied by the Spirit shall certainly and finally persevere and 
hold out to the end, so that not one of them shall ever 
perish, but shall have everlasting life." 

Ninth Article. " We believe that Baptism and the 
Lord's Supper are ordinances of Christ to be continued 


in his churcli and practiced by Believers after his own 
example and in obedience to his commands until his 
second coming, and that the former is requisite to the 

Tenth Article. ''"We beheve that the first day of the 
week ought to be kept as a Sabbath day of rest, &c." 

No one familiar with the faith and practice of the 
regular Baptists will be at all doubtful of the character 
of the first church of Block Island as he examines the 
above articles. They recognize no authority in the church 
but the Scriptures; no justifying merits in good works; 
no power of free will to effect, or produce faith, conver- 
sion, regeneration, and sanctification ; no final perishing 
of the saints; no baptism of unbelievers, as infants; no 
communion with persons before their immersion, and no 
Sabbath but the first day of the week. These articles 
adopted on the 19th of August, 1784, were doubtless 
expressions of views that had been entertained from the 
earliest settlement of the Island. Thirty-one names were 
put upon record at the time of adopting said articles, in 

In 1815, thirty-one years thereafter, the same articles 
were copied from the old manuscripts and were adopted 
as the standard of faith and practice, and were subscribed 
to by Enoch Rose and the other members of the church 
present at the time of their adoption. The committee 
appointed for the examination and copying said articles 
were "Enoch Rose, Samuel Mott, and Edward Dodge, 
together with Elder E. Stedman," January 6, 1815. 

Enoch Rose was chairman also of the meeting when 
appointed chairman of the committee for examining and 
copying the old articles of faith, and as chairman he pre- 
sented them to the church for acceptance, February 4, 
1815. He probably took an active part in church affairs 
during the interval between the death of Rev. Thomas 


Dodge, in 1804, and the settlement of tlie next pastor, 
Rev. Enoch Stedman. Mr. Rose was baptized by Rev. 
Thomas Dodge, on the 4th of September, 1785, and 
although a troublesome member, several times, during his 
thirty-four years of standing in the church, the members 
bore with him until the early part of the year 1818. 
Then, on the 21st of February, the church put upon its 
record the following: '^ Taking up the matter that so 
highly concerns as we trust for Christ and his cause sake, 
as it respects our brethren Enoch and John Rose who 
have gone out from us and fellowshipped such as deny 
the Divinity of Christ our God and Saviour, and also 
refused to be admonished by us, and deny the govern- 
ment of the church; therefore we withdraw the hand of 
fellowship from them, and all that hold them in commun- 
ion." This case of discipline clearly illustrates the mode 
of church government in this church. Mr. Rose had 
been deacon for twenty years, but in excluding him the 
church exercised its own independent authority. 

In 1817 Rev. Enoch Steadman became pastor of the first 
church of New Shoreham, and held that office during a 
very troublesome period in the church, much of the 
trouble originating from Enoch Rose's defection, and 
from various vices. He was highly esteemed in the 
Groton Union Baptist association, which met about the 
time of his death, and put on record the following: " Our 
beloved father and brother, Enoch Steadman, pastor of 
the church of New Shoreham, has left this world, to 
receive, we hope, the everlasting reward of the righteous 
in the mansions of the blessed. By this stroke another 
is added to the list of the destitute churches." Rev. Mr. 
Steadman was buried on the 19th of June, 1833, in his 
seventy-fourth year, after a pastorate of sixteen years. 
He is also remembered as having been a soldier in the 
war of 1812, previous to his ministry. 


The Eev. John S. Dill, March 29, 1834, was called to 
the pastorate of the first church of Block Island, and 
accepted. At the same time the church voted to ask as- 
sistance from the convention. He had troublesome mem- 
bers. In June, 1836, the church voted him and his wife 
letters of dismission. During that month they were 
visited by Rev. Arthur A. Ross. Things were sadly 
mixed during the year following — troublesome members 
defaming the character of Rev. Mr. Dill. In July, 1837, 
a council was "held in the Baptist meeting-house at New 
Shoreham;" letters and records were examined; the 
troublesome members confessed their wrongs, as well as 
Mr. Dill, and mutual forgiveness was expressed. On the 
following day, at an adjourned meeting, all the members 
agreed to ' ' bury all their difficulties with each other, and 
in future live together according to their covenant obliga- 
tions, and strive together for the faith of the gospel." It 
was also voted unanimously that nothing had been 
brought before the council to impeach the character of 
Rev. Mr. Dill. Rev. Arthur A. Ross, and Robert Dennis 
were committee from the convention at this council. On 
the 26th of August, 1837, the church voted Mr. Dill a 
dismission from the pastorate of said church, after a settle- 
ment of three years and a half. 

Rev. Elijah Maccomhe?' was Mr. Dill's successor. His 
pastorate began Jan. 1, 1838, and his first year's salary 
was $250, "and also the appropriation from the conven- 
tion." In April of that year Wm. A. Weeden was ap- 
pointed a "tidingsman, to keep order in the meeting- 
house." On the same day a committee of five were ap- 
pointed to raise funds to secure a parsonage. In Septem- 
ber, 1841, measures were taken for the incorporation of 
the church under the name of the First Baptist Society of 
Neio Shoreham. It seems to have had no pastor during 
the summer of 1841. In June a pulpit committee of five 


were appointed. In September it was voted to raise a 
subscription to induce Rev. Mr. Maccomber to return to 
the Island. He was in a church -meeting, Feb. 11, 1842, 
and again became pastor of said church. On the 4th of 
March, 1843, one hundred and ninety-seven members 
renewed their covenant with each other. Then followed 
a continuation of former discords, Millerism excitement, 
and exclusions which sadly characterized Mr. Maccomber s 
entire connection with this church. Many, doubtless, 
were unjustly excluded, and some unwisely admitted. 
His chief error seems to have been in fixing the precise 
time of the second Advent, of denouncing the Bible in 
case of failure, and of severity towards those who did 
not adopt his Millerism. His pastorate closed in 1844, 
and in October of that year a pulpit committee was ap- 
pointed to consider the character of candidates for the 

Rev. Silas Hall, from the Baptist church in South 
Kingston, R. I., was received as a member of the First 
Baptist church of New Shoreham, Apr. 26, 1845. In 
June of that year the articles of faith and practice were 
read before the church, and approved. In July a slash- 
ing vote was passed in reference to those who had em- 
braced the Miller doctrine, and for several months after- 
wards similar votes were repeated, until it was evident 
that those who sowed the wind under Mr. Maccomber's 
pastorate reaped the whirlwind while Mr. Hall served the 
church. In August, 1846, the church was so badly 
divided that at a meeting on the 29th, it was voted to lay 
their records before the Warren association which met 
at Pawtucket, Sept. 9th and 10th, following. The asso- 
ciation put upon record this statement: "A persevering 
adherence to the errors of Millerism is an oifense merit- 
ing exclusion from a Christian church," but omitted action 
upon the particular acts of said church, and appointed a 


committee to visit and advise with its members. On the 
28th of September said committee came to the Island and 
read to the church a most concihatory and wise address, 
in which they justified the exclusion of ^' those persons 
who had embraced Millerism and denounced the church," 
but reproved the church as acting in a '^ language and 
spirit unnecessarily hasty and severe," and advised the 
church to relinquish the services of both ministers upon 
the Island, Messrs. Maccomber and Hall, as soon as pos- 
sible and to unite in the support of another. 

In May, 1848, the church called the Rev. Joseph P. Bur- 
hank, and he entered heartily upon the labors of reconcil- 
ing former discords and restoring excluded members. 
His salary the first year was $200, keeping of his horse, 
"separate from grain," and assistance from the conven- 
tion. During his pastorate of about two years a better 
spirit pervaded the church. 

Rev. C. C. Lewis was called by said church, Jan. 18, 
1852, and continued his pastorate up to the spring of 1856. 
He suffered much from taking an active part in poHtics. 

Rev. Albert Gladwin, during the summer of 1856, then 
a licentiate, served the church faithfully, and distin- 
guished his labors by raising funds to build the present 
house of worship. It September of said year Rev. Dr. 
Jackson, and Rev. S. iVdlam, of Newport, visited and 
counseled the church. The new house was formally de- 
livered to the church by Mr. Gladwin, at a meeting held 
Dec. 31, 1857, at which time a vote of thanks was given 
to Mr. Gladwin for his services, together with $244.99 of 
unpaid subscriptions "as a remuneration for his services 
in collecting funds for the purpose of building and fur- 
nishing this house, and also as building committee to get 
the same built and furnished, and for his services with us 
as a minister of the gospel." 

Rev. Cummins Bray, in September, 1858, was called to 



the pastorate of said church, on a salary of $350.00. He 
was a faithful minister of the gospel of i^eace. During 
his ministry old wounds were healed, and. a new and 
healthy spiritual life became apparent. A judicious ob- 
server, and visitor to the Island, in 1860, wrote: ''In this 
work of charity and reconciliation much credit is due and 
is freely accorded to their present pastor, Rev. C. Bray, 
whose judicious labors in the cause of temperance, and 
his kindness of heart which is patent to all have made 
him a general favorite over the Island." His pastorate 
closed Oct. 1, 1865. 

Rev. J. H. Baker, Oct. 19, 1866, became pastor of said 
church, and continued such until Jan. 19, 1867. He was 
about that time taken with a paralytic shock in the pulpit, 
and never recovered. 

His paralysis was first discovered while he was praying, 
as he repeated several times his last words in the pulpit, 
" heing not a forgetful hearer, hut a doer of the worhy 

The church treated him with great kindness thereafter, 
until his removal from the Island. During his pastorate 
Rev. Wm. Taplin was his assistant much of the time, after 
which the church was supplied by the latter, and by Rev. 
Mr. Harris until March, 1867. 

Rev. I. B. Maryott, April 1, 1867, began his pastorate 
with said church, and continued his faithful labors until 
April 1, 1872, during which time the church was blessed 
with a good degree of peace and prosperity. Rev. Solo- 
mon Gale, as pastor, served the church from April 1, 1872, 
to February, 1873. 

Rev. R. Russell was called to the pastorate of this 
church, April 1, 1873, and continued his services until 
September 30, 1874. He will long be remembered as 
the aged minister with the elastic step and cheerful spirit 
of youth, under whose ministry occurred the great revival 


of tlie winter of 1873-4, during which he baptized 121 
members. Salary, $7 5 a. 00. 

Rev. S. T. Livermore of Bridge water, Mass., was called 
to the service of this church, in the fall of 1874, and 
began his labors November 1st. Salary, $1,200.00. 
Members in 1876, four hundred and six. 

In the history of the First Baptist Church of New 
Shoreham we find ample evidence of the stability of a 
religious society that governs itself independently of 
bishops, or of bodies clothed with higher grades of eccle- 
siastical authority. There is also seen evidence of the • 
truthfulness as well as the irony of the saying of a pre- 
late that " There must be a divinity in the government of 
the Baptist churches or they would ruin themselves by their 
follies." "We own this with a degree of glory, in that we 
have only Christ for our Head and Kuler; and of shame, 
in that we so poorly exemplify his rules of church order. 
Yet with his Word as our only law of faith and practice, 
in spite of all our follies, we feel safer than we should by 
recognizing any intermediate authority between us and 
Him. Thus this church, from a germ planted in the 
days of Roger Williams, and by his kindred spirits who 
gladly left the places of persecution on the main-land, 
took up their abode on a lonely island far out at sea, to 
dwell among savages, unprotected by a strong force, has 
become a large and fruitful vine, sending out. its branches 
to the sea all around. Many a time has the writer been 
asked by visitors at the Island, on learning the circum- 
stances of its settlement: ''Why did they come here, so 
far from the main, and settle amid so many Indians ?" 
The most reasonable answer that he has yet been able to 
give has been: "They came to Block Island for the same 
reason that Roger Williams went to Providence." They, 
however, did not wait to be banished. But they did im- 
mediately put in practice the sentiments for which he had 


been banished, and liave continued doing so until the 
present. In no part of the world, perhaps, has religious 
freedom been maintained so purely for two hundred years 
as on Block Island. Here it has never been disturbed by 
any civil enactments. Here no ecclesiastical authority 
has ever infringed upon private opinions of religious faith 
and practice. Here the church has never felt the over- 
ruling power of bishops or synod. Here no religious 
duties have been enforced upon helpless infants. Here 
the ordinances have ever been administered in their prim- 
itive simplicity. Here the acts of sprinkling, pouring, 
and signing with the cross have never been witnessed. 
Here the minister has no more ruling authority in the 
church than the youngest member. No authority is 
recognized in it except that which comes from the Scrip- 
tures. Thus amid the severest trials, this church, depend- 
ing upon its Head for life and protection, has stood and 
prospered while the great hierarchy of Rome has ceased 
to trample upon the necks of kings and to slaughter the 
saints with racks and guillotines to subdue the world to its 
ecclesiastical authority, and politically has faded away. 
While civil and religious freedom has stood on Block 
Island two hundred years, how many kingdoms have 
fallen 1 

Its most remarkable revival occurred during the pas- 
torate of Rev. R. Russell. It began with a few in a 
prayer-meeting, in a time of coldness, and resulted like 
the " handful of corn in^ the earth upon the top of the 
mountains," amid ice and snow where a divine power 
made " the fruit thereof shake like Lebanon." The pas- 
tor was then absent considerable of the time on account 
of his son's sickness, but the meetings continued with 
increasing power until human instrumentalities were 
almost invisible amid the manifestations of God's power. 
The places of intemperance were deserted; profanity 


ceased; enemies became friends; one hundred and twenty- 
one were baptized; the aged minister with whitened 
locks flowing in the wind, nerved with superhuman 
strength, with his frail body warmed by a divine fire 
within, from Sabbath to Sabbath, surrounded with ice, 
stood in his chosen Jordan and immersed score after 
score of rejoicing converts, verifying the simple old 

" Brethren, if your hearts are warm, 
Snow and ice will do no harm." 

The baptismal scenes, for many years, have been at the 
south end of the Great Pond, a short distance northwest 
from the house of Mr. Samuel Mott, and have been very 
impressive. While many witnesses assembled on the 
slightly elevated shore, the candidates met at Mr. Mott's 
house for preparation where many rooms were warmed 
and opened for their convenience. When all were ready, 
the pastor with the senior deacon, followed by a choir of 
male singers chanting a recitation of all the circumstances 
of Christ's baptism, followed by the candidates, and these 
by their friends, marched in a procession to the water. 
There, after prayer, the ordinance was administered. 
There many have felt the deep conviction that the ordi- 
nance was not of man, nor to please man. In the winter 
of 1876 three young ladies were thus baptized. The 
wind was blowing strongly; the waves came a long dis- 
tance on the G-reat Pond; the shore was bordered with 
ice and snow, as one after another, in the presence of a 
multitude, walked calmly down into the water, and on 
returning to the shore exchanged kisses with her compan- 
ion going down to the liquid grave in obedience to a 
divine command. Many a heart was cheered w4th the 
strong conviction that the power sustaining these delicate 
females in such a Jordan would be ample support in 


approaching and fording the river at the end of life's 

The present officers of the church are, Deacons Richard 
Steadman, Robert T. Sands, and Samuel P. Dodge; Clerk, 
Edward Mott, and Mrs. Alma Hayes, wife of John Hayes, 
Jr., organist. 

Order of religious services: Sabbath-school at 10 o'clock 
A. M. ; preaching at 1 1 a. m. ; short discourse and confer- 
ence-meeting in the evening. Covenant-meetings on the 
Saturday before the first Sunday of each month, and 
prayer-meetings Thursday evenings. 

In all of the meetings of the church a competent ob- 
server sees that the emotional element exceeds the intel- 
lectual, a preponderance far preferable to that of the re- 
verse. During the sermon the best of attention is given 
by the congregation, nearly all of whom seem to be hun- 
gering and thirsting for the bread and water of life, 
regardless of the baskets and pitchers in which their spir- 
itual food is presented. Scripture matter^ not scholastic 
manner^ is their desideratum. To them a few sailor 
phrases properly used for communicating the gospel are 
far more valuable than flowers of rhetoric and syllogisms 
of logic, and the inimitable force and beauty of their use 
of such phrases must be heard by appreciating minds in 
order to be properly understood. " Shipped for the voy- 
age; " ''fair winds for a while;" "shipped to work, not 
simply as a passenger;" "the old ship has never foun- 
dered;" "to have good sailing, we must launch out into 
deep waters;" "when troubles would sink me, religion 
buoys me up; " "I have sailed most happily while on my 
watch, keeping the star. King Jesus, in view;" "my 
course is laid for the heavenly harbor; " "the Bible is my 
chart and compass;" "in storms and fogs I have sailed 
safely, while following the chart; " "I expected storms as 
well as fair weather when I went aboard for the voyage; "' 


"the old ship has never lost a true sailor overboard;" 
''poor steerage;" "going astern;" "in too shallow- 
water;" "out of the course; " "sailing by false lights;" 
"meeting head-winds and back-flaws; " "slept off prayer, 
and was grounded — am on a new tack headed off shore 
for deep water;" "I saw the rocks and breakers ahead, 
and went about;" "our ship has a safe Captain ; " "the 
dying brother was aked — how about that anchor ? He 
answered — she holds ! " — these are some of the phrases 
which are frequently heard in the covenant and con- 
ference meetings, and none can appreciate their force 
unless they are familiar with sailing. Occasionally a few 
are so happily combined, and filled with such ardent and 
sacred emotion as to make some of the refined and pet 
terms seem very tame. Sach an utterance enforced by a 
corresponding character of its author, and this utterance 
instantly followed by a hearty Amen from the audience, 
have often produced more apparent good than an entire 
discourse of cold and dry speculations, or of word paint- 

This church insists upon having unwritten sermons. 
The present pastor, once questioned by a member as to 
the extent of the notes which he used in the pulpit, satis- 
isfied the inquirer by saying, "my notes are about like 
yoiu- lobster buoys." 


We are not able to give the precise date of the origin, 
or organization of this church. According to McClintoc's 
Cyclopaedia there were no Free- Will Baptist churches in 
North America previous to 1780. A disinterested writer 
who gave an account of the churches of the Island in 
1860, did not mention the date of the organization of 
this church, although he had free access to its records, 


and speaks of tliem as the '' records in the hands of Mr. 
Allen, which I perused with care." 

Rev. Enoch Rose, the principal originator of this church, 
was a member of the First Baptist church of New Shore- 
ham until February, 1818. Not long after that date the 
Free- Will Baptist church originated, previous to which 
there had been but one church on the Island. Mr. Rose 
became the first pastor of the new church, and continued 
such until the year ]835. 

Rev. Elijah R. Rose, was the second Free-Will pastor, 
and was ordained April 3, 1835, and continued his pas- 
torate about ten years, during which the church joined the 
Rhode Island association of Free Baptist churches. 

Rev, Ezekiel R. Littlefield, the third pastor, was ordained 
June 17, 1845, and continued as such only a few years. 

Rev. Jacoh Harvey, the fourth pastor, was ordained in 
June, 1849, and closed his pastorate in 1852. For some 
time thereafter the church was supplied by Rev. Wm. 
Taplin. For several years, previous to 1874, it was in a 
declining condition, weakened by division and want of a 
pastor. In 1860, Mr. Potter wrote: " I am informed that 
the attendance of the Free-Will Baptists on Sundays is 
small, and that the church has ve^-y much declined from 
its former prosperity." 

Rev. George Wheeler, of Providence, was called to the 
pastorate of this church, Oct. 25, 1874. Its members 
then were fifty-four. Sis labors were blessed, in the 
winter of 1875-6, with a precious revival, in which he 
baptized forty -two. The church now numbers one hun- 
dred and twenty-four, and is in a peaceful, prosperous 
condition. Its house has been repaired, and refurnished, 
and its Sabbath-school is full of life and progress. Noth- 
ing is clearer than the good evidence that this church 
was fortunate in obtaining the services of its present pas- 


tor. Its first house of worship was built in 1853, and 
burned in 1863. 


Seventh-Day Advent Baptists, on Block Island, were self- 
organized into a worshiping body in April, 1864. Al- 
though not generally known as a church, having had no 
house of worship, there are devoted Christians among the 
few now remaining. There were about twenty-six of 
them in 1874. 



It IS a difficult and delicate task to describe an individ- 
ual, and much, more so to give an accurate representation 
of a community. A gentleman once remarked, "Island- 
ers are always peculiar." It was much easier for him to 
say this than to point out their peculiarities. For as 
Islands differ from each other in products, climate, and 
employment, so do their inhabitants. Their present char- 
acters are also modified by the original stock from which 
they have descended. 

The Block Islanders are almost wholly descendants 
from genuine, primitive New Englanders. No other 
part of the United States, probably, has so light a sprink- 
ling of foreign elements as has Block Island. Here, in a 
population of 1,147, one Portugee, one Irishman, one 
Swede, and a few English, nine in all, constitute the for- 
eigners. 1,138 American born, out of 1,147. Of this 
number 1,032 were born on Block Island. 

Physically, the men are uncommonly vigorous. With 
their industrious habits, healthy air, freedom from the 
anxieties of speculation, excessive strife for display, and 
the fears of want while fish traverse the ocean, they can 
hardly be otherwise than healthy, and of long life. By 
deducting from the population three-fifths as children we 
have left about six hundred and ninety adults. Sixty-one 
of these are between the ages of 60 and 70; thirty-six 
between 70 and 80; thirteen between 80 and 90; and of 
the six hundred and ninety adults, one hundred and ten over sixty years old, or nearly one-sixth of the adults 


are of this age; and ninety-seven out of a hundred of 
the whole population are American born. The good 
health and vigor of the men are the result of good living 
as well as of a good climate. No tables are furnished 
with a healthier diet. If salt pork has been more common 
than in other places, an abundance of fresh fish has 
greatly prevented its evil consequences. 

Intellectually, the men of Block Island are in advance 
of country towns on the main. Their frequent visits to 
ports along the coast from Portland to New York, and 
the longer voyages that some have taken to foreign coun- 
tries, have given them a good practical knowledge of 
men and things which makes them persons of bettei' 
judgments than many who are more extensive readers, 
and more highly refined. They know how to drive a 
good bargain as well as to steer a vessel, and they have 
the excellent faculty of keeping what they have gained, 
and of living within their means. A more independent 
community can hardly be found. Their courage, how- 
ever, is mainly exhibited in battling with the sea, which 
requires all that can be cultivated. One writer has said 
of them: "They are a clanish race; think themselves as 
good as any others (in which they are quite right); their 
ambition is to obtain a good plain support from their own 
exertions, in which they are successful to a man; they 
are simple in their habits, and therefore command respect ; 
they are honest, and neither need, nor support any jails; 
they are naturally intelligent." The Island has never had 
a lawyer for a citizen. 

The wo7iien of Block Island, like mother Eve, seem to 
be made from the ribs of their husbands. The wives are 
true, genuine ''help-meets," in every sense of the word. 
"With no thoughts of menial inferiority, but with a con- 
sciousness of their legitimate sphere of cooperation, they 
respect themselves and "reverence their husbands." Not 


one of them evinces the notion that she was made to be 
an idler or to busy herself in devising ways and means to 
spend the earnings of others. They are vigorous, indus- 
trious, virtuous, dignified, and genial. They are tidy, but 
not gaudy; frank, but never simpering; if lacking in 
refined education, this is compensated for by a large 
supply of common sense and native genius. There has 
never been a milliner's shop, nor a dress-maker's, nor a 
tailor's on the Island, and although there are ladies here 
able to keep three servants, these ladies can do their own 
cooking and chamber-work, their own dress-making, and 
keep their children well clothed by their own personal 
efforts. Neither do they seem to feel any more degraded 
by doing this than did Eve whose husband owned the 
whole world. Another has well said of them: ''The 
women are healthy with bright eyes and clear complex- 
ions, virtuous and true, and as yet without the pale of the 
blandishments and corruptions of fashion." It is refresh- 
ing to find the women of an entire community so happy 
in the enjoyment of true independence, and in coming so 
near to filling the pattern: " In her tongue is the law of 
kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her house- 
hold, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children 
arise up and caU her blessed; her husband also, and he 
praiseth her." A newspaper correspondent, who seems to 
be a very competent judge, says: " The women are gene- 
rally good-looking, with here and there a beauty." What 
more can be said of the women of any locality? The 
greatest numbers of the Island ''beauties," are described 
in the saying: 

"Pretty is that pretty does." 


The Sands family is traceable back into English history 
seven or eight centuries, and at various times some of that 


name acted conspicuous parts in national affairs, especi- 
ally in the reigns of Henry Yll and Henry VIII. Sir 
WiUiam Sands, at that time, had much to do in securing 
the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey, and in sustaining- 
charges against Pope Clement the VII. The American 
family of this name probably sprang from that of a Mr. 
James Sands of Staffordshire, England, who died in 1670, 
aged 140 years, and his wife lived to the age of 120. 
Forty-eight years previous to his death the subject of this 
sketch, Capt. James Sands, was born in Reading, Eng- 
land, and his father, Henry Sands, the first of the name 
in New England, was admitted freeman of Boston in the 
year 1640, thirty years before the death of the elder 
James Sands. Thus we may infer, if not demonstrate, 
the line of relationship between the English and Ameri- 
can families of Sands. 

Capt. James Sands, born in 1622, was a young man at 
the time the noted Ann Hutchinson made so much dis- 
turbance among the good people of Massachusetts, who 
banished her from the colony on account of Antinomian 
preaching. She went to East Chester, N. Y., there settled, 
and employed Mr. Sands to build her a house, the follov/- 
ing account of which is given by the Rev. Samuel Niles, 
who was the grandson of Mr. Sands. 

"In order to pursue her purpose she agreed with Cap- 
tain James Sands, then a young man, to build her a 
house, and he took a partner with him in the business. 
When they had near spent their provisions, he sent his 
partner for more which was to be fetched at a consider- 
able distance. While his partner was gone there came a 
company of Indians to the frame where he was at work, 
and made a great shout, and sat down. After some time 
they gathered up his tools, put his broad-ax on his 
shoulder, and his other tools into his hands, and made 

signs to him to go away. But he seemed to take no 


notice of them, but continued in his work. At length 
one of them said, Ye-hah Miimuneketock, the English of 
which is, ' Come, let us go,' and they all went away to the 
water-side for clams or oysters. [They were near the 
Hudson river.] After some time they came back, and 
found him still at work as before. They again gathered 
up his tools, put them into his hands as before they had 
done, with the like signs moving him to go away. He 
still seemed to take no notice of them, but kept on his 
business, and when they had stayed some time, they said 
as before, Ye-hah Mumuneketock. Accordingly they all 
went away, and left him there at his work — a remarkable 
instance of the restraining power of God on the hearts of 
these furious and merciless infidels, who otherwise would 
doubtless in their rage have split out his brains with his 
own ax. However, the Indians being gone, he gathered 
up his tools and drew off, and in his way met his partner 
bringing provisions, to whom he declared the narrow 
escape he had made for his life. Resolving not to return, 
and run a further risk of the like kind, they both went 
from the business." Mrs. Hutchinson hired others to 
finish her house. Soon after she with her whole family, 
sixteen in all, was murdered by the Indians. 

It was in 1658 that Mr. Sands with his wife came from 
England and landed at Plymouth, and soon after this he 
undertook the building of the house for Mrs. Hutchinson. 

A short time after his return from that undertaking to 
Massachusetts, he became identified with the enterprise oi 
settling Block Island, three years after his arrival from 
England. In what year he came to the Island we are not 
certain, for his name does not appear among the sixteen 
who came here in April, 1661, nor is it in the list of those 
who met August 17, 1660, at the house of Dr. John 
Alcock of Roxbury to buy the Island; and yet, in the 
memorandum of the survey, his name is mentioned, and 


also the numbers of the lots that constituted his sixteenth 
part of the Island. This is sufficient to identify him with 
the first purchasers and settlers thereof. His lots were 
numbered 12, and 14, and 15, the latter two owned by 
him and John Glover. He came from Taunton to the 
Island, and was soon distinguished as a prominent citizen. 

In March, 1664, the General Assembly of Rhode 
Island notified the inhabitants of Block Island that they 
were under the care of the Rhode Island government, and 
at the same time informed James Sands, then a freeman 
of Rhode Island, to come ''in to the Governor or deputy 
Governor, to take his engagement as Constable or Conser- 
vator of the peace there." 

In May, 1664, Mr. Sands with Mr. Joseph Kent, pre 
sented to the General Assembly of Rhode Island, a petition 
in behalf of the Islanders that Joseph Kent, Thomas 
Terry, Peter George, Simon Ray, William Harris, . Samuel 
Dearing, John Rathbone, John Davies, Samuel Staples, 
Hugh Williams, Robert Guthrig, William Tosh, Tollman 
Rose, William Carboone, Tristrome Dodge, John Clark, 
and William Barker might be admitted as freemen of the 
Colony of Rhode Island. The Assembly referred the 
petition to a committee consisting of Roger Williams, 
Thomas Olney, and Joseph Torrey, who reported favor- 
ably upon all the above names except Hugh Williams, 
against whom was a rumor of his having said some words 
reproachful of the colony. After further examination as 
to his loyalty, however, he was admitted freeman. Mr. 
Sands had been previously admitted, and he is probably 
the James Sands mentioned as a freeman in 1655, and as 
a representative of the General Court of Commissioners, 
held at Newport, May the 19th, 1657. (Col. Rec, I, p. 300, 
355.) Capt. James Sands, with Thomas Terry, was the 
first representative from Block Island to sit in the Gene- 
ral Court of Commissioners of Rhode Island, admitted 


such in 1665. In 1672, he was foremost in presenting 
the petition to have the Island incorporated under the 
name of New Shoreham, and the General Assembly 
granted the request, but in so doing preserved the old 
name Block Island^ the chartered name being "New 
Shoreham, otherwise Block Island." 

He understood the carpenter's trade, as is evident from 
what has been said of his undertaking to build a house 
for Ann Hutchinson. This knowledge helped him in 
erecting his own house on Block Island. He located it a 
few feet east of the house now occupied by Mr. Almanzo 
Littlefield, close to the mill and bridge on the road from 
the Harbor to the Center, or Baptist church. He built it 
of stone, and Rev. Samuel Niles, his grandson, frequently 
speaks of it in his history of the Indian and French 
Wars. Our evidence of its location is circumstantial, but 

There is not an individual on the Island, besides the 
writer, probably, who can say with any degree of certainty 
where the "garrisoned " house stood. 

Mr. Sands was brave, humane, and a devoted Christian 
as well as an enterprising citizen. There was difference 
of opinion between him and his grandson, Mr. Niles, to 
preclude the suspicion that might arise in the minds of 
some that the latter overpraised the former. Moreover, 
the latter wrote at too advanced an age to be prejudiced, 
or biased from the truth by personal considerations. Mr. 
Sands' courage is seen in the following extract concerning 
the Indians here and the few settlers: "The English, 
fearing what might be their [the Indians'] design, as they 
were drinking, dancing, and reveling after their usual 
customs at such times, * * went to parley with them, 
and to know what their intentions were. James Sands, 
who was the leading man among them, entered into a 
wigwam where he saw a very fine brass gun standing, and 


an Indian fellow lying on a bench in tlie wigwam, proba- 
bly to guard and keep it. Mr. Sands' curiosity led him 
to take and view it, as it made a curious and uncommon 
appearance. Upon which the Indian fellow rises up has- 
tily and snatches the gun out of his hand, and withal 
gave him such a violent thrust with the butt end of it as 
occasioned him to stagger backward. But feeling some- 
thing under his feet, he espied it to be a hoe, which he 
took up and improved, and with it fell upon the Indian." 

In another connection Mr. Niles says of him: '<He was 
a benefactor to the poor; for as his house was garrisoned, 
in the time of their fears of the Indians, many poor peo- 
ple resorted to it, and were supported mostly from his 
liberality. He also was a promoter of religion in his 
benefactions to the minister they had there in his day, 
though not altogether so agreeable to him as might be 
desired, as being inclined to the Anabaptist persuasion. 
He devoted his house for the worship of God, where it 
was attended every Lord's day or Sabbath." 

^^ Anabaptist ^^ was then a term used to designate such 
as are now called Baptists, and Mr. Sands' powerful influ- 
ence did much to establish Baptist sentiments on the 

That he was an enterprising citizen is evident from the 
simple statement: "Mr. Sands had a plentiful estate, and 
gave free entertainment to all gentlemen that came to the 
Island." To this it is added: ''When his house was gar- 
risoned it became a hospital, for several poor people re- 
sorted thither." 

Such are the facts that furnish the outlines of one of 
the noblest characters of New England. An intimate 
friend of Roger Williams, the first freeman on the Island, 
the first representative from it in the Rhode Island As- 
sembly, the one who procured the citizenships to the 
Islanders as freemen and presented to the State the peti- 


tion for the chartered rights of a township; making his 
house the hospitable home of visitors from abroad, the 
garrison, and the place of worship for the Islanders, and 
a hospital for the poor and suffering. '' He died in the 
72d year of his age," (Niles) and instead of the humble 
slab, from which the letters and figures are so worn by 
time, in the Block Island cemetery, lying over his grave, 
there should be erected a monument more expressive of 
his great excellences. His simple epitaph reads: 




LIFE MARCH 1 3 A. D. 1 695. 

He represented Block Island in the Rhode Island Gen- 
eral Assembly in the years 1678, 1680, and 1690. His 
descendants are very numerous, and some of them distin- 
guished. Three of his four sons, during the French 
privateering on the Island removed to Cow Neck, now 
Sands Point, on Long Island. At the same time they 
retained their farms and cattle on Block Island, to which 
they annually returned in the summer. Their kinsman 
and intimate acquaintance, Rev. Samuel Niles, says of 
them: "Captain John Sands, Mr. James, and Samuel 
Sands, each of them leaving a farm at Block Island, 
which they stocked with sheep, were wont to come once 
a year at their shearing-time on the Island, to carry oft" 
their wool and what fat sheep there were at that time 
and market at New York." One of them, it seems, re- 
turned to remain permanently after the French had ceased 
their depredations, and of him we give the following 



Capt. John Sands. 

Mr. Niles describes him as ''a gentleman of great port 
and superior powers," as the eldest son, and successor of 
his father, the original settler of Block Island. He was 
admitted freeman here in 1709, and in the years 1713 
and 1714 was representative of the Island in the Ehode 
Island General Assembly. His brothers, James and Sam- 
uel, removed to Cow Neck, now Sands Point, Long Island, 
and there remained permanently, while the youngest of 
the four brothers continued with his father on Block 
Island. His name was Edward, was born in 1672, ad- 
mitted freeman in 1696, died in 1715, aged forty-three 
years. He probably left a child bearing his name, for 

Edward Sands 

Came upon the stage of public life in 1734, being then 
admitted freeman from Block Island. He was its repre- 
sentative in the General Assembly from the year 1740 to 
the year 1760. In the meantime he had a son born who 
was named 

Edward Sands, Jr. 

Of him we have a brief record in a ponderous old tome 
now in the possession of Mr. Simon Ray Sands of Block 
Island. It is an immense quarto, heavily bound in boards, 
richly ornamented with heavy corner pieces and clasps of 
brass, printed in 1715, the year the senior Edward died, 
and by him was presented to the younger Edward. Its 
title is '- The Book of Common Prayer, and Psalter." It 
is carefully kept as a precious heir-loom, and has been 
visited by persons of distinction in latter years. In it is 
the following record of the subject of this sketch: " Ed- 
ward Sands Born y^ 2 Day of April A. D. 1748. Also: 
" Edward Sands, Jr. was Married to Deborah Niles and 


eldest Daughter of Paul Niles, Esq. the 14th Day of De- 
cember 1769 by John Littlefield, Warden." 

During the stormy time of the Revolution he was well 
known by his patriotism, and in 1774 was appointed by 
his townsmen on the committee of resistance to the Eng- 
lish tea-tax in favor of the East India Company. In 1776, 
he with others protested against the bill passed by the 
Assembly of Rhode Island for the establishment of small- 
pox hospitals in the various towns. In the same year he 
w^as appointed by the Rhode Island Assembly to take the 
census of Block Island, and by a special act was allowed 
to carry on trade with the colony. By the same authority 
in 1777, he w^as "surgeon of the regiment of artillery;" in 
1779, by an act of the Assembly, was permitted to return 
to the Island, showing the vigilance kept upon all move- 
ments in those times of military rule; and in 1785, repre- 
sented his town in the General Assembly. 

Ray Sands. 
Of him, in the old book above described, is this record: 
''Ray Sands, Borne January y« Fifth at Eleven o'Clock in 
the Morning, A. D. 1736." He w^as a cotemporary of 
Edward, Jr., and w^as a man of great energy and influ- 
ence. Made a freeman in 1759, at the early age of twenty- 
four, he began his public career as representative in the 
Rhode Island Assembly, in 1761, and held it also in 1767. 
At the time post-offices were first established in Rhode 
Island, Mr. Ray Sands was appointed post-master at 
Tower Hill, in 1775. When the muster-rolls were filling 
up for the Revolution, Ray Sands, by both Houses of the 
Rhode Island Legislature, \vas appointed captain of a 
military company of South Kingstown. In 1776, his was 
the third company of that town. During that year he 
was appointed ^o the office of Major, and before its close 
was promoted to that of Colonel, and was brought into 


active service, as seen by the following act: "It is voted 
and resolved, that Col. Joseph Noyes and Col. Ray Sands 
be directed forthwith to accompany the troops of horse 
stationed at Boston Neck and Point Judith; and that they 
procure convenient quarters for said troops as nigh said 
places as possible." In 1776, his regiment captured a 
ferry-boat from the enemy near ''North Ferry." In 1777 
it was discovered that he had received his colonelcy by 
an error of entry by the Clerk of the Assembly, whereat 
it should have been lieutenant-colonel. The mistake was 
rectified to his honor, as he continued none the less patri- 
otic, and received a vote of thanks from the General 
Assembly, "for his vigilant and spirited conduct as colo- 
nel." After a considerable time had elapsed since he left 
Block Island, and as he had a farm here, an act was 
passed, subject to Major-General Gates, then commanding 
the United States forces in Rhode Island, permitting him 
to return again to the scenes of his childhood. Mean- 
time he made South Kingston his home, as we learn from 
the following act of 1783, viz.: ''It is voted and resolved 
that the said Ray Sands have liberty to go upon the said 
Island and bring off his negroes, household furniture and 
provisions, with any other articles of the produce or 
growth of the said Island; provided that he go from the 
port of Newport, under the inspection of the intendant 
of trade there, and upon his return enter in the said 
intendant's office aU the articles he shall bring, taking 
care that no British goods or prohibited articles be brought 
in his boat, under penalty of forfeiture of his said boat, 
and all the articles therein, and being also liable to a pros- 
ecution therefor." In the same year of this removal his 
townsmen and kindred on the Island chose him, an inhab- 
itant of South Kingston, to represent them in the Gene- 
ral Assembly, which soon after made this record: "It is 
therefore voted and resolved, that the choice of the said 


Ray Sands as aforesaid, be, and the same is hereby ap- 
proved." In 1787, he was also representative from Block 
Island, and according to the family record, in the old 
book, died March 11, 1820, aged eighty -four years. 

John Sands. 
Cotemporary with the above Col. Kay Sands was a 
relative by the name of John who was also distinguished 
as a prominent citizen. His town made him representa- 
tive in 1773. In the same year he was active in efforts to 
secure a harbor for Block Island, to which allusion is 
made under the head "The Harbor." In 1774, he was 
appointed by the colony to take the census of the Island, 
and was also, in 1774, on the committee of resistance to 
the tea-tax. In 1775 he was chosen captain of a company 
of which Samuel Rathbone, Jr., was lieutenant, and "Wm. 
Littlefield, ensign. That year he was authorized " to take 
an account of the powder, arms, and ammunition " of 
Block Island. That year was distinguished by the 
removal of goods from the Island to the main-land by 
military authority to prevent them from falling into the 
hands of the English. Mr. Sands parted with 105 sheep 
for £32 25. 6d, and ''169 store sheep and lambs" for 
£42 55. Od. In 1776 he, as captain, was in command of 
the Block Island company of militia to serve in the Revo- 
lution, with Simon Littlefield for lieutenant, and John 
Pain for ensign. That year he, with Joshua Sands and 
William Littlefield was authorized by the Rhode Island 
Assembly and "appointed a committee to determine what 
number of neat cattle and sheep" should "be left upon 
said Block Island for the necessary use of the inhabi- 
tants." He had then state license to carry on trade with 
the colony on the main-land. In 1777, Adjutant Stelle, 
who came to the Island in the sloop Diamond, "to manage 
an exchange of prisoners " with England, boarded at the 


liouse of Capt. John Sands, as did also the prisoners, for 
which he was allowed by the Government £12 145. OSc/. 
In 1783, he was representative in the Rhode Island Legis- 
lature, and by that body was appointed to take possession 
of the confiscated estate of one Ackurs Sisson on Block 
Island. In 1790, he was also representative in the state 

Mr. John Sands was chairman of the town meeting of 
Block Island, August 14, 1779, when that extraordinary 
document was adopted, of which he was probably the 
author, in which the citizens assumed rights so far tran- 
scending the charters of England and the colony to said 
Island as virtually to erect it into a self -constituted, inde- 
pendent democracy, wielding the power of life and death. 
He was the great man of the Island during the Revolu- 

Joshua Sands was in active Ufe in 1774, and was one of 
the anti-tea-tax committee in that year. 

Robert Sands, son of Col. Ray Sands of South Kings- 
ton, in 1781, in reply to a petition presented to the Assem- 
bly " that his father is possessed of a large real estate on 
Block Island, which he has committed to his care," was 
^'permitted to go upon the said Island, under the inspection 
of Gideon Hoxie, Esq." to which was added, to show the 
rigor of the times, " that he do not return without the 
order of this Assembly." 

Mrs, Lucy Sands, in 1779, by permission of the Gene- 
ral Assembly and Major Gen. Gates, visited her family on 
Block Island. 

But we must draw to a close this imperfect sketch of 
the Sands family of Block Island whose public spirit, 
patriotism, wealth, and high tone would be an honor to 
any part of the world. Their descendants have made a 
record in America, in the various professions and walks 
of life, that will compare favorably with their ancient 


English record dating back to 1041. But few, however, 
are now upon Block Island. Those in the direct line 
from James Sands, the first settler here, now living upon 
the Island are Mr. Simon Ray Sands, his brother Edward 
Sands, Dea. Robert Treadwell Sands and his brother "Wm. 
C. Sands, who are highly esteemed, and well-to-do citizens. 

The first-named, commonly called "Col. Sands," as well 
as the others, bears much of the air and high tone of his 
ancestors. He was Representative in the Rhode Island 
Legislature eight years, 1840-1848, five years in the Sen- 
ate, and three years in the House. His father's name 
was William Pitt Sands, whose father's name was Edward 
Sands, Jr., whose father was Edward Sands, whose father 
was Capt. James Sands, the first settler. 

The present Col. Sands had two grandfathers of the 
name of Sands who were brothers, viz., John Sands, and 
Edward Sands, Jr. John's daughter, Catharine, married 
Edward's son "Wm. Pitt, the father of Col. Simon Ray 

Mr. Nathaniel Sands, who formerly owned the real 
estate where the Adrian House is now located, is still 
remembered with esteem by many of the Islanders. He 
removed to East Greenwich, Rhode Island, where he died. 
His widow and daughter there still survive. 


This lady had virtues and culture which entitle her to 
more than a passing notice. Although at this distant day 
we can give but a few outlines of her character, yet these 
may indicate to some the beauty of the portrait had it 
been properly delineated in due season. There is also 
incidental, collateral information obtained from the bio- 
graphical fragments of her now presented. In speaking 
of Captain James Sands, one of the first settlers, his 
grandson, Rev. Samuel Niles, says: 


" His wife was a gentlewoman of remarkable sobriety 
and piety, given also to hospitality. She was the only 
midwife and doctress on the Island, or rather a doctor, all 
her days, with very little, and with some and mostly, no 
reward at all. Her skill in surgery was doubtless very 
great, from some instances I remember she told me of. 
One was the cure of an Indian, that under disgust, as 
was said, he had taken at his wife or squaw, shot himself, 
putting the muzzle of his gun to the pit of his stomach, 
and pushing the trigger. The bullet went through him, 
out and opposite at his back. He instantly fell, and one 
of the spectators who happened to be in the field at the 
time, and heard the report of the gun, told me, after he 
was fallen -and wallowing in the blood, he saw the blood 
and -froth issue out of his back and breast as often as he 
drew his breath. He was perfectly healed, and lived a 
hearty, strong man even to old age ; whom I afterward 
knew, and often, saw the scar at the pit of his stomach, as 
large or larger in circumference than our ordinary dollars 
passing among us." 

"Another signal cure she told me God made her an 
instrument of making, was on a young woman that was 
struck with lightning through her shoulder, so that when 
she administered to her by syringing, the liquid matter 
would fly through from the fore part to the hinder, and 
from the hinder part to the foremost, having a free and 
open passage both ways, yet was cured, and had several 
children, and Uved to old age. I also knew her long 
before her death. She had also skiU, and cured the bites 
and venomous poison of rattlesnakes." 

Her husband, in his last will, made her the sole execu- 
trix of his estate which, after his death, was inventoried 
as follows: 



James Sands'^ Estate, March 18, 169 J/.: 
''About 400 acres of land: 
Fifty-six head of cattle, small and great: 
Three horses — mare, colt, one horse: 
Thirty swine, old and young: 
About 300 sheep: 

A Negro woman — house and barn, and mill. 
Sundry household goods not appraised." 

Mr. Sands died in March, 1695, and in March, 1699, 
Mrs. Sarah Sands, his widow, had a lawful record made 
of the following emancipation of her slaves: 

" Know all men by these presents that I, Sarah Sands, 
of Block Island, alias New Shoreham, in the Colony of 
Ehode Island, Providence Plantations, in New England, 
Wife to Mr. James Sands, of Block Island, and made sole 
executrix by my said husband, James Sands, at his death, 
and having three Negro children born under my roof and 
in my custody, being left to my disposing by my above 
said husband: 

''Know ye therefore that I, the above Sarah Sands, do 
hereby and voluntarily give and bestow of them as fol- 
io weth, that is to say: 

"First: I give to my granddaughter, Sarah Sands, 
daughter to my son, Edward Sands, one of the Negro 
girls named Plannah: The other Negro girl I give and 
bequeath unto my granddaughter, Catharine Niles, daugh- 
ter to my son-in-law, Nathaniel Niles, of Point Judith in 
the colony above said — the two Negro girls I freely and 
voluntarily give to my two grandchildren above named 
until the said Negroes come to the age of thirty years, 
and then I do by these presents declare that they shall be 
free from any service, and be at their own disposal — the 
Negro girl given to my granddaughter, Catharine Niles, 
is named Sarah. The other negro above said being a boy 


named Mingo, I freely give and bequeath to my grand- 
son, Sands Raymond, son to my son -in law, Joshua Ray- 
mond, of Block Island above named, which I give freely 
until that he the said Negro boy comes to the age of 
thirty-three years, and then to be free and his own man 
and at his own disposal forever after that he shall arrive 
to the age of 33 years; for I Sarah Sands do by these 
presents freely declare that I have made a promise that 
no child whatsoever born under my service and care shall 
be made a slave of any longer than is above specified, and 
for the confirmation and ratification of this my free and 
voluntary act, I have under set my hand, and affixed my 
seal this ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord one 
thousand six hundred and ninety -nine." 
Signed in presence of 
Samuel Niles. SARAH SANDS. 

Two years and a half passed away and Mrs. Sands, con- 
scious of her approaching end, in her last will, left a pre- 
amble to it that speaks well for her character, revealing a 
faith which was her brightest ornament through her long 
and eventful life mostly spent among her fellow-Islanders, 
many of whom she had seen in their barbarous state, and 
all of whom, with her devoted companion, she had la- 
bored to improve both socially and religiously. 

Her Will. 

" In the name of God, Amen. I Sarah Sands of Block 
Island, alias New Shoreham, in the colony of Rhode 
Island, and Providence Plantations, in New England, 
being aged and weak in body, but of sound and perfect 
memory — Praise be given to Almighty God for the same 
— and knowing the uncertainty of this life on earth, and 
being desirous to see that things in order be done before 
my death, Do make this my last will and Testament in 
manner and form following : 


" I being wife to Mr. James Sands deceased, and made 
sole executrix by my said husband, as by will bearing 
date June the 18th, 1694, may plainly appear, That is to 
say, First, and Principally; I commend my soul to Al- 
mighty God my Creator, assuredly believing that I shall 
receive full pardon and free remission of all my sins, and 
be saved by the precious death and merits of my blessed 
Saviour and Redeemer Christ Jesus; and my body to 
the earth from whence it was first taken, to be buried in 
such decent and Christian manner as to my executor here- 
after named shall be thought most meet and convenient : 
And as touching such worldly estate as the Lord in mercy 
hath lent me, my will and meaning in the same shall be 
implied. . . 

[Things specified for each.] That they shall be equally 
divided amongst my five children, viz.: John Sands, 
James Sands, Samuel Sands, Sarah Niles, and Mercy 

Signed in presence of SARAH SANDS. 

Samuel Niles, and 
Hannah Rose, Oct. 17th, 1703." 

In Sept., 1704, she gave her negro woman to her grand- 
son. Rev. Samuel Niles, to be kept by him ten years, at 
the expiration of which time she was to be free for ever 


Their location is established, in the writer's mind 
beyond a doubt, by the following circumstantial evidence, 
to have been nearly where Mr. Almanzo Littlefield's resi- 
dence is now standing. 

MR. sands' stone HOUSE, ETC. 285 

The House. 
That Captain James Sands had a stone house, used as a 
garrison and hospital, in times of necessity, is admitted, 
and shown by Mr. Niles' History. 

1. His sixteenth of the Island — nearly all of it, as 
seen in the original plat, a copy of which is in the pos- 
session of Col. S. Ray Sands, embraces the house lot, and 
mill-pond now owned by Mr. A. Littlefield. 

2. Rev. Mr. Xiles, grandson of Capt. J. Sands, lived 
some years with his grandparents in the stone house, and 
he says the mill-pond was '^near the house." He speaks 
of that pond as having a "flume." 

3. He says that house was " not far from the Harhor,''^ 
which then was the " Old Pier." 

4. The house was within musket shot of a French 
privateer lying at the Pier. After the French had plun- 
dered it and returned to their vessel they ^^ fired many 
guns at the house,^^ says Mr. Niles, and adds: " I heard sev- 
eral bullets whistling over my head." 

5. When the French took the stone house they "set 
up their standard on a hill on the hack side of it " [the 
house']. After it had stood there some hours an English 
vessel hove in sight, which " put the Frenchmen into a 
great surprise," whereupon: 

6. They were seen "running up to their standard on 
the hill, then down again, and others doing the like." 

7. Mr. Niles, when the French landed, was " in fair 
sight of the house," and at the same time "saw them 
coming from the water-side," while just behind him was a 
" large swamp.'''' 

8. The outlines of a cellar still visible between the 
present old water-mill and Mr. Almanzo Littlefield's 
house, and he states that part of a cellar-wall is there 
covered up. 


9. No other mill-pond on the Island could have had a 
" flume," and a flume implies the presence of a mill. 

10. The mill-pond now there has been there from the 
most ancient traditions. 

11. Mrs. Sarah Sands, widow of the above James 
Sands, in her will transmitted to her son the " mill," and 
the ''mill" was in the inventory of her husband's estate 
soon after his death. 

12. The stone house of Mr. Sands was '^ garrisoned." 
This implies the presence of a body of soldiers. 

13. That garrison existed when the men of the Island 
were only ^^ sixteen and a hoy." 

14. The mill-pond and mill were near the house and 
garrison when Mrs. Sands had "but one little child, a girl, 
just able to run about and prattle a little " when she was 
drowned in said mill-pond. 

15. Said garrison was established in the time of 
'- Philip^ s War," as a protection against the Block Island 

16. The earth work of an ancient garrison that com- 
manded said stone house on three sides, is now seen, directly 
east of the spot where said house stood, and within pistol- 
shot of it, with a sharp hill back of it or east of it, and 
adjacent from which the whole region around was visible 
to a sentinel. 

17. The "upland in a great swamp" to which Mr. 
Niles fled the first time the French came to Mr. Sands' 
house, was a convenient place of concealment, lying a 
short distance northwest of the location of said house. 
The upland and swamp remain, and are easily pointed out, 
lying a little distance west of Erastus Rose's house. 


It is much to be regretted that we have so little infor- 
mation of this good man. From what we have, however, 


it will be seen that he devoted his fortune, his talents, and 
even his life to the welfare of Block Island. His father, 
Simon Ray, came from England, and died in 1641, leav- 
ing a large estate in Braintree, Mass., and hence the 
younger Simon had ample means to pay for his sixteenth 
part of the Island, to move here in comfortable circum- 
stances, and also to assist others in its settlement. 

He was born in 1635. Six years after, his father, Simon 
Ray, Sen., died. Nineteen years after said death, the son, 
at the age of twenty-five, met his fellow-townsmen, 
"Thomas Faxun, Peter George, Terry, Richard 
Ellis, Samuel Bering, all of Braintree," at the house of 
"Mr. John Alcock, Physician, in the town of Roxbury, 
in the colony of Massachusetts," "August the seventeenth, 
1660, then and there to confer about" the settlement of 
Block Island. At that meeting Mr. Ray not only pledged 
himself to pay a sixteenth of the purchase -money for the 
Island, and to bear his proportionate part of the expense 
of moving the colony of sixteen families there, but he 
also with Mr. Samuel Bering, for the greater convenience 
of transporting the passengers," built a shallop upon their 
own cost and charge for the promoting and settling of said 
Island." At Braintree, in April, 1661, he, with his fif- 
teen colleagues embarked, in said shallop, for Taunton, 
and thence came to Block Island. Here, for seventy- 
seven years, he witnessed the vicissitudes of the Islanders 
with an interest that may well be regarded as paternal. 
It is a pity that he kept no more of a record of his expe- 
rience for the benefit of posterity. 

Mr. Ray seems to have been a man of great physical 
endui'ance, of an even temper and mild disposition, of 
sound judgment, kind feelings for all classes, even the 
Indians, and of deep religious convictions, manifested in 
works of faith and charity. In September, 1704, at the 
age of sixty-nine, he left us the following index of his 


character, at a time when the inhabitants of New England 
probably hated no other objects in existence so much as 
they did the Indians. Mr. Edward Ball was the " crown- 
er," or the king's attorney or sheriff, on the Island, and 
is therefore mentioned first, as a mark of respect, in the 
following address: 

" To Mr. Edw^ard Ball, and the rest of the town coun- 
cil: Whereof, Penewess the late sachem being dead to 
whom the land reserved for him belonged, and now 
belongeth to his countrymen whereof Ninicraft being 
willing for to assist them in the putting of the land to 
rent so as for to be at a certainty of receiving rent yearly 
for it, I pray you let there be no bar nor hindrance 
towards that proceeding, but rather be helpful to them 
in the matter, for it is fit that they should make the 
best improvement they can of what belongs to them; 
which is all 1 have to trouble you with at present, remain- 
ing yours to serve in any thing that I am capable. 

Simon Ray, "Warden." 

His recommendation was adopted by the town, October 
6, 1704. By it we learn that the Indians were allowed to 
hold land on the Island, to collect rent for the same, and 
that instead of confiscating to themselves the land left 
unclaimed after the petty sachem's death, the Islanders 
humanely put in practice the kind feelings of their chief 
warden. Ninicraft, then, was the chief of the Narragan- 
setts, and of the Block Island Indians. 

The old records of the Island show plainly that Mr. 
Ray was ever watchful and laborious for the welfare of 
his townsmen pecuniarily, socially, and religiously. While 
others fled to escape from invading pirates and French 
privateers he firmly and patiently submitted to the worst 
that might come. As evidence of this the following inci- 
dent is here given: '-When the French came into the 
house they found only the old gentleman and his wife; 


all the rest of the family were fled. The French de- 
manded his money. He told them he had none at his 
command. They, observing by the signs on the floor, 
that chests and other things were lately removed, and the 
money, which they principally aimed at, asked him where 
they were. He told them he did not know, for his peo- 
ple had carried them out, and he could not tell where 
they put them. They bid him call his folks, that they 
might bring them again ; which he did, but had no answer, 
for they were all fled out of hearing. They being thus 
disappointed, one of them, in a violent rage, got a piece 
of a rail, and struck him on his head therewith, and in 
such fury that the blood instantly gushed out and ran on 
the floor. Upon which his wife took Qourage, and sharply 
reprehended them for killing her husband, which she 
then supposed they had done. Upon which they went off 
without the game they expected. After the flow of blood 
was over, he recovered his health, and lived many years 
in his former rehgious usefulness." (Niles.) 

That he was a man of great religious influence upon 
the Islanders is evident from the above writer, Rev. Sam- 
uel Niles, an intimate acquaintance and admirer of Mr. 
Ray. He says: "He and his son, who was of the same 
name, and after bore the like distinguishing characters of 
honor and usefulness that his father had done before who 
is now lately deceased, as there was no minister in the 
place, were wont, in succession, in a truly Christian, laud- 
able manner, to keep a meeting in their own house on 
Lord's days, to pray, sing a suitable portion of the Psalms, 
and read in good sermon books, and, as they found occa- 
sion, to let drop some words of exhortation in a rehgious 
manner on such as attended their meeting." Thus, here 
on this little "isle of the sea," beyond the sound of any 
church-going bell, without permit by imposition of human 
hands, but in accordance with a higher commission, the 


chief warden of the Island, by preaching and practice 
inculcated or planted the seeds of piety which in after 
generations have borne most ample harvests. 

His residence was on the west side of the Island, but a 
short distance northerly from the house now owned and 
occupied by Mr. Raymond Dickens, whose house is built 
in part of the one anciently occupied by Mr. Ray. His 
dwelling was unpretentious, and his home had an air 
much less popular than the more stately mansion of the 
more public and enterprising Capt. James Sands. At Mr. 
Ray's house a part of the unfortunate inmates of the Pal- 
atine were cared for while their diseased and emaciated 
bodies lingered in life. From his house they were borne 
to their last resting place, a hillock about seventy-five 
rods southeast from the hospitable home of Mr. Ray. 

What more perfect pattern of a good citizen can . be 
drawn than we find in the life and character of Simon 
Ray, of Block Island ? From the age of twenty-five to 
that of nearly one hundred and two we see his fortune, 
his time, and talents devoted to the temporal and spiritual 
interests of his fellow townsmen. He penned the pre- 
amble and resolution to which he called their attention, 
in his eighty-fifth year, for the preservation of the forest 
timber, then becoming scarce on the Island. There is 
evidence also that his hand drew up that first call of the 
Island to a minister of the gospel — a copy of which call 
we have given in another place. In harmony with the 
outlines of his character in the foregoing statements, are 
the facts inscribed upon his humble monument by those 
who knew him well. A gray stone slab lying over his 
grave in the highest part of the Block Island cemetery 
contains these words: "This monument is erected to the 
memory of Simon Ray, Esq., one of the original propri- 
etors of this Island. He was largely concerned in settling 
the Township, and was one of the chief magistrates, and 



such was his benevolence that besides the care he took of 
their civil interests, he frequently instructed them in the 
more important concerns of our Holy religion. 

'' He was deprived of his eyesight many years, cheer- 
fully submitting to the will of God . His life being in 
this a living instance, as in all others, of a lovely example 
of Christian virtue." 

For many years, probably on account of his blindness, 
the town meetings were held at his house, though remote 
from most of the other houses, and such was the venera- 
tion of the people for him that they continued to elect 
him as chief warden almost continuously for about half 
a century, and for about thirty years he was their repre- 
sentative in the Rhode Island General Assembly. His 
name is still a common household word, even where all 
knowledge of him has faded away, and " Ray " seems to 
be destined to continue here as long as names for infants 
shall be needed. The outlines of his cellar, and the deep 
old well still mark the place of his dwelling. His blood 
relatives, however, are nearly, if not entirely, extinct from 
the Island. 

Simon Ray, Jr., succeeded his father in local offices, 
and in distinction for personal excellences. His daugh- 
ters were greatly admired, and married eminent persons; 
his estate was large, and he~ is entitled to an honorable 
remembrance. His son-in-law, Samuel Ward, known as 
Gov. Ward, of Revolutionary fame, was Mr. Ray's ad- 
ministrator. After his death the following inventory of 
a part of his "movable estate" was recorded in 1757: 
" 24 Cows, [probably old tenor] . . . £1246 

4 Oxen, 

4 Heifers, 

1 pr. of Steers, . 
10 2-year olds, . 
14 Cattle 1 year old, 



200 Sheep, ..... £900 

10 Hogs,, ..... 72 

2 Chains and 2 yokes, . 

1 Plough, .... 

1 pair shod wheels, 

Dick's time for 10^ months. 


ABEL FRANKLIN, f ^VW<^''^^'r^' 

The following letter from the Hon. William Greene, 
Ex-Lieut. Gov. of Rhode Island, of East Greenwich, is 
here inserted with great pleasure, and will doubtless be 
read with much interest. 


'^East Greenwich, Nov. 8th, 1876. 

"Rev. S. T. Livermore. 

"Dear Sir : — A painful attack of rheumatism prevented 
my sending you the enclosed paper last week, as prom- 
ised. I have compiled it from family records in my pos- 
session and believe it to be correct. I am the grandson 
of Catharine, daughter of Simon Ray, Jun"", whose widow 
— a granddaughter of Roger Williams — died in this 
house, and was buried in my grandfather's family burial 
ground, from which her remains have never been removed. 

" In April, A. D. 1661, Simon Ray, with fifteen others, 
emigrated to Block Island. At his suggestion the prop- 
erty was divided into seventeen parts, and one was set 
apart for the support of the gospel. He was an excellent 
and highly useful man. The records of the Island bear 
ample testimony to his activity and importance in its 
settlement, and show him to be chief and leader of the 
company. His life was prolonged far beyond the usual 
span, and it was not until he was nearly ninety years of 
age that he ceased to hold the principal office in the com- 
munitv to which he had for sixty years been a father. 


Meantime he had reared a son to fill his place; and in 
outward darkness — for he had become blind — he waited 
for long years for his summons home. Ten years before 
his death he made his will, in which he gave freedom to 
his negroes, for the respect he held for them, they having 
been brought up with him from their infancy; giving 
them also whatever they had been able to produce for 
themselves by their own labor during his life. 

''Some of the ancient records of Block Island are appar- 
ently in the handwriting of Simon Ray, or Raye, as his 
name was sometimes spelled. He died in March, 1737, 
in the one hundred and second year of his age. He was 
buried in the cemetery on the Island, and a monument, 
now almost illegible, was erected over his grave. He left 
four children, viz. : Sybil. Mary, Dorothy, Simon. 


''Simon Ray, Jr., or Captain Simon Ray, as he was com- 
monly called, was born April 9, 1672, and was a worthy 
assistant and successor of his father, though he attained 
not the same great age. He passed the allotted term of 
three score years and ten, and filled with credit to him- 
self, and usefulness to others, the most important offices 
in his native Island. He was twice married, and outlived 
his father only eighteen years, dying at the age of eighty- 
six years. He, too, sleeps in the rough sea Isle where he 
first saw the light, dying on the 19th of March, 1755. 
His name stands on the book of records, at first, Simon 
Raye, or afterwards, Simon Ray the second. 

" His children were, Judith Ray, born October 4, 1726; 
Anna Ray, born September 27, 1728; Catharine Ray, 
born July 10, 1731; and Phebe Ray, born September 10, 
1733. Judith married Thomas Hubbard of Boston; Anna 
married Governor Samuel Ward of Rhode I&land; Catha- 
rine married Governor Wilham Greene of Rhode Island; 


and Phebe married William Littlefield of Block Island. 
Catharine, daughter of Phebe and William Littlefield, 
was early left an orphan, and was adopted by her aunt 
Catharine, wife of Gov. Wm. Greene; and while a resi- 
dent in that family, was married to Major-General Na- 
thaniel Greene of the Revolution. After the death of 
Gen. Greene she married Phineas Miller and resided in 
Georgia until her death. 

Very respectfully, 

W. Greene." 


In reference to the last-named lady, and native of 
Block Island, the following extract from the Life of 
Major-General Nathaniel Greene, written by George 
Washington Greene, is here added. He says of her: 

"The maiden's name was Catharine Littlefield, and she 
was a niece of the Governor's wife, the Catharine Ray of 
Franklin's letters. The courtship sped swiftly and 
smoothly, and more than once in the course of it he fol- 
lowed her to Block Island, where, as long after her sister 
told me, the time passed gleefully in merry-makings, of 
which dancing always formed a principal part. She was 
an intimate acquaintance of General Washington's wife, 
Martha, meeting her many times at Army Headquarters, 
whenever the army rested long enough to permit the 
officers' wives to join them. An intimacy sprang up 
between her and Mrs. Washington which, like that be- 
tween their husbands, ripened into friendship, and con- 
tinued unimpaired through life. His first child, still in 
the cradle, was named George Washington, and the 
second, who was born the ensuing year, Martha Washing- 

As the daughter of the honored Simon Ray, Jr's, daugh- 
ter Phebe, as the wife of the famous General Greene, 

franklin's correspondence. 295 

and as an intimate friend of the wife of Washington, she 
has reflected honor upon the little Island of her child- 
hood and ancestors. Her aunt Catharine has an equal 
claim upon the kind remembrance of the Islanders. 


Catharine Ray, mentioned in the above extract from the 
Life of General Greene, was the granddaughter of the 
venerable Simon Ray, and the third daughter of Hor. 
Simon Ray, Jr. She was born on Block Island, July 10 
1731, and married Governor William Greene, famous for 
a long period as the chief magistrate of Rhode Island. 
She was also much admired by Dr. Franklin, who wrote 
some pleasant things to her, and about her; and she cor- 
responded freely with Mrs. Franklin. This friendship 
between the Doctor and the Block Island maiden was 
strengthened by the pleasantry that originated from the 
gift which she made him of some cheese from her father's 
farm, concerning which the distinguished philosopher and 
statesman wrote: 

" Mrs. Franklin was very proud that a young lady 
should have so much regard for her old husband as to 
send him such a present. We talk of you every time it 
comes to the table. She is sure you are a sensible girl^ 
and a notable housewife, and talks of bequeathing me to 
you as a legacy; but I ought to wish you a better, and 
hope she will live these hundred years; for we are grown 
old together, and if she has any faults, I am so used to 
them that I don't perceive them. As the song says: 

" Some faults we have all, and so has my Joan, 
But then, they are exceptingly small ; 
And now I'm groAvn used to them, so like my own, 
I scarcely can see them at all." 

" Indeed, I begin to think she has none, as I think of 
you. And since she is willing I should love you as much 


as you are willing to be loved by me, let us join in wish- 
ing the old lady a long life and a happy, etc." 

Subsequent to this Dr. Franklin wrote to his wife in a 
more serious tone concerning his young friend on Block 
Island, dating his letter, London, Dec. 3, 1757, and say- 
ing: "I am glad that Miss Ray is well, and that you cor- 
respond. It is not convenient to be forward in giving 
advice in such cases. She has prudence enough to judge 
and act for the best." 

In January, 1763, the Doctor wrote to her from Phila- 
delphia, saying: ''Mrs. Franklin admits your apology for 
dropping the correspondence with her, and allows your 
reasons to be good; but hopes when you have more leis- 
ure it may be resumed." 

It is also complimentary to Block Island that Mr. John 
Bigelow, one of Franklin's biographers, says of one of 
its daughters: "Franklin had a remarkable affinity for 
superior people," and "it is pleasant to follow the growth 
and loyalty of his friendship for Miss Ray." 

The same friendship and intimacy continued after Miss 
Ray's marriage to Governor William Greene, and surely 
it is not a little remarkable that the first families of this 
little Island have held rank with the first families of 
America; for we find the descendants of Simon Ray inti- 
mately associated with the families of Franklin, of Wash- 
ington, of Roger Williams, of Gov. Wm. Greene, of 
Gov. Samuel Ward of Revolutionary fame, and of Major- 
General Nathaniel Greene of military renown. 


No one, perhaps, took a more active part than Thomas 
Terry in the settlement and improving of Block Island 
during his short residence here. He seems to have been 
a man of very different bearing from the high-toned 
statesman -like Capt. James Sands, and the more quiet. 


even-tempered, moral Simon Ray. Mr. Terry had great 
self-possession, shrewdness, and withal a daring unexcelled 
by the bravest. Thus in these three men we find the 
little Block Island colony of sixteen families favored with 
the three important characters of statesmen, moralist, and 
hero. That Thomas Terry was the latter none can doubt 
who properly estimate the few incidents of his life that 
we are able to gather. 

He was present at the house of Dr. John Alcock in 
Roxbury, Mass., the 17th of August, 1660, ''then and 
there to confer about " the purchase of Block Island. He 
was from Braintree, Mass., and was one of the six who 
built a " barque for the transporting of cattle to said 
Island for the settlement thereof , " and in April, 1661, left 
Braintree with others for Block Island, stopping on their 
way at Taunton. 

In May, 1664, he, with James Sands, petitioned the 
Court of Rhode Island for the admission of the Islanders 
as freemen of the colony, and in response was appointed 
by said court to proceed with Mr. Sands to inaugurate 
the first steps of civil government on the Island, and they 
did accordingly. At the same time Mr. Terry was ad- 
mitted freeman of the colony. In 1665, as representa- 
tive from Block Island in the Rhode Island General 
Assembly, he was intimately associated with Roger Wil- 
liams, John Clark, and other distinguished persons. 
During that year he petitioned the Assembly for assistance 
in building a harbor on the Island, and thus secured a 
visit of inspection from a committee consisting of Gover- 
nor Benedict Arnold, Deputy-Governor William Bren- 
ton, and Mr. John Clark. In 1670, Mr. Terry presented 
a similar petition. In 1672, he was one of the foremost 
in obtaining a charter for the Island to become a town- 

His one-sixteenth of the land here purchased was 


located in different parcels, the largest two of which were 
the extreme south end of the Island, extending from the 
east to the west shore, and the narrowest part of the 
Neck, embracing Indian Head Neck. On the northerly- 
part of the latter his house was located. He seems to 
have been quite forward in making slaves of the Indians, 
for as early as 1669, six of his Indian slaves escaped from 
him and caused considerable trouble in the colony. Mr. 
Terry wrote to Francis Lovelace, then governor of New 
York, concerning these six Indians, and said governor 
wrote to Governor Arnold, of Rhode Island, about the 
matter as follows: "Mr. Thomas Terry, of Block Island, 
informs mee that hee hath had six Indyans servants run 
away from him, which Ninicraft [Chief of the Narragan- 
setts] protects and keepes, though none of his Indians. 
I think you may do well to admonish him of it, and that 
hee ought not to doe the least injury to the English under 
whose protection he lives, without giving satisfaction for 
it. It may be by his answer you may judge of his 

The substance of the above the governor of Rhode 
Island, by an interpreter, communicated to Ninicraft, a 
very artful chief, who replied "■ that he had had a great 
deal of trouble about these servants, and that he did re- 
ceive an order about them from Mr. Brenton in the win- 
ter time, when the snow was knee-deep; and that then he 
did send out to look, but could not find them, and that he 
did order them oftentimes to return to their master; but 
they did run away, some to Cohnecticott, and some to the 
Massachusetts. That Thomas Terry had done very badly 
with him in the business, and caused him a great deal of 
trouble; that once an old man, one of his Indians, did 
complain to him that Thomas Terry had taken two chil- 
dren out of his house by force, which were now grown 
young men, and were two of the six that Thomas Terry 


did now demand; and that he did advise the said Indian 
to complain to the Governor against him; that he might 
hear them both; further, he saith that yesterday he met 
one of the four Indians that were brought to Thomas 
Terry upon Quononicutt, and did intend to have brought 
him over with him, and did bring him some part of the 
way; but he run from him, and that he would have had 
the English there to have got on horseback and rid after 
him, but they said it was no matter. He also said if 
Thomas Terry had not intended to have taken away my 
life, he might as well have informed you that I, being at 
a dance on Block Island about three or four years since, 
I seeing a servant of his there, sent him home to him, to 
his house; but the next morning the said servant came 
again, and I sent him to his house again; and he return- 
ing, I sent him back again the third time. This I believe 
he did not acquaint you with, although there are several 
witnesses that can testify to the truth thereof." 

The above transactions not only give us a glimpse of 
personal characters, and of those peculiar times, but they 
also point to the cause and mode of exterminating the 
Indians of Block Island. Slavery was the cause, and 
running away was the mode, evidently. Mr. Terry seems 
to have been more familiar than any others of his fellow- 
citizens with the language and habits of the Indians. He 
conversed with them in their own tongue, and knew well 
how to take advantage of their ignorance, and how to 
manage their passions. Amidst the greatest perils he 
was master of the situation. The following incident given 
by his friend Rev. Samuel Niles is in point. At the time 
referred to, the Indians on the Island were about twenty 
to one of the settlers, and they had become so turbulent 
that the women and children of the latter were collected 
at the Sands' Garrison, and a close eye was kept upon the 
savages. Says Mr. Niles: 


"They therefore kept a very watchful eye on them, 
especially when they had got a considerable quantity of 
rum among them and they got drunk, as is common with 
them, and then they are ready for mischief. Once when 
they had a large keg of rum, and it was feared by the 
English what might be the consequence, Mr. Thomas 
Terry, then an inhabitant there, the father of the present 
Colonel Terry, Esq., of Freetown, who had gained the 
Indian tongue, went to treat with them as they were gath- 
ered together on a hill that had a long descent to the bot- 
tom ; [Beacon Hill ?] where he found their keg or cask of 
rum, with the bung out, and began to inquire of them 
who had supplied them with it. They told him Mr. Ar- 
nold, who was a trader on Block Island. Upon which he 
endeavored to undervalue him and prejudice their minds 
against him ; and in their cups they soon pretended that 
they cared as little for Mr. Arnold as he did. He told 
them that if they spake the truth they should prove it, 
(which is customary among them,) and the proof he di- 
rected was, to kick their keg of rum, and say, Tuckisha 
Mr. Arnold ! The English is, ' I don't care for you Mr. 
Arnold; ' which one of them presently did, and with his 
kick rolled it down the hill, the bung being open, as was 
said, and by the time it came to the bottom the rum had 
all run out. By this stratagem the English were made 
easy for this time." 

Another account of Mr. Terry's tact and bravery is 
given by Mr. Niles, which helps us also to understand 
some of the trials of the first settlers. He says: 

"Another instance of the remarkable interposition of 
Providence in the preservation of these few English peo- 
ple in the midst of a great company of Indians. The 
attempt was strange, and not easily to be accounted for, 
and the event was as strange. 

" The Indians renewing their insults, with threatening 


speeches, and offering smaller abuses, the English, fear- 
ing the consequences, resolved, these sixteen men and 
one boy, to make a formal challenge to fight this great 
company of Indians, near, or full out three hundred, in 
open pitched battle, and appointed the day for this effort. 
Accordingly, when the day came, the fore-mentioned Mr. 
Terry, living on a neck of land remote from the other 
English inhabitants, just as he was coming out of his 
house in order to meet them, saw thirty Indians, with 
their guns, very bright, as though they were fitted for 
war. He inquired from whence they came. They replied, 
from Narragansett, and that they were Ninicraft's men. 
He asked their business. They said, to see their relations 
and friends. And for what reason they brought their 
guns ? They replied, because they knew not what game 
they might meet with in their way. He told them that 
they must not carry their guns any farther, but deliver 
them to him; and when they returned, he would deliver 
them back to them safely. To which they consented, and 
he secured them in his house, and withal told them they 
must stay there until he had got past the fort; as he was 
to go by it within gunshot over a narrow beach between 
two ponds. The Indians accordingly all sat down very 
quietly, but stayed not long after him; for he had no 
sooner passed by the fort but the Indians made their ap- 
pearance on a hill, in a small neck of land called by the 
English Indian-head- neck. And the reason of its being so 
called was, because when the English came there they 
found two Indian's heads stuck upon poles standing there. 
Whether they were traitors, or captives, I know not. 
When they at the fort saw those thirty Indians that fol- 
lowed Mr. Terry, they made a mighty shout; but Mr. 
Terry had, as I observed, but just passed by it. 

'< However, the English, as few as they were, resolved to 
pursue their design, and accordingly marched with their 


drum beating up a challange (their drummer was Mr. 
Kent, after of Swansey), and advanced within gunshot of 
it, as far as the water would admit them, as it was on 
an island in a pond, near to, and in plain sight of the 
place of my nativity. Thither they came with utmost 
resolution, and warlike courage, and magnanimity, stand- 
ing the Indians to answer their challenge. Their drum- 
mer being a very active and sprightly man, and skillful 
in the business, that drum, under the over-ruling power 
of Providence, was the best piece of their armor. The 
Indians were dispirited to that degree that they made no 
motions against them. The English after inquired of 
them the reason of their refusing to fight with them, 
when they had so openly and near their fort made them 
such a challenge; they declared that the sound of the 
drum terrified them to that degree that they were afraid to 
come against them. From this time the Indians became 
friendly to the English, and ever after." 

The above occurrence passed entirely from the knowl- 
edge of the Islanders, so that it was news to every one of 
them when related by the writer in his centennial address 
to them on the Fourth of July, 1876. So imperfect is 
tradition, without a written record. 

That Mr. Terry was more than an ordinary man it is 
easy to see from the foregoing. His coolness and nerve 
were exhibited in starting from his house alone to walk 
within arrow-shot of the enemy's fort to join his com- 
rades. His presence of mind and wonderful courage were 
demonstrated in boldly, single-handed, facing thirty 
strange Indians armed with new guns. His daring and 
magic power were unexcelled by Ethan Allen at Fort 
Ticonderoga. See him, in an open field commanding 
thirty strange savages armed for battle! Behold him 
confronting the whole band, and disarming them one by 
one, and before their faces carrying their guns into his 


house ! Hear him then ordering them to stay just where 
they were until he had passed the fort and joined his 
comrades ! By this strategy he kept them out of the 
sight of the Indians in the fort until he was beyond the 
reach of their guns and arrows. At the same time his 
mind must have been upon the battle of himself and six- 
teen companions, with three hundred Indians now reen- 
forced by thirty more. His heroism that day will bear 
comparison with any upon the pages of history, and he 
and his few associates were no less tried and daring than 
were Leonidas and his followers. The story of Mr. 
Terry to his fellow-Islanders, acquainting them of his 
power over the thirty whom he had just disarmed, infused, 
doubtless, his own spirit into them. "We can imagine 
him in consultation with Mr. Sands, Mr. Ray, Mr. Rath- 
bone, and others, and as he was familiar with the Indian 
language he understood their temper better than others, 
and they probably agreed with him that a show of cour- 
age was their greatest weapon. Drum for your life I was 
probably the only music that inspired Mr. Kent, the drum- 
mer, and the beating of his drum helped the little isolated 
band to march the more boldly within " gunshot " of the 
enemy whose barbarity was striking terror to the English 
throughout the country. 

A short distance from this fort was another scene which 
no pen has described, and none could portray. There in 
the Sands' Garrison, at the foot of the hill just below the 
mill-pond, and on the easterly side of the outlet, were 
hearts of wives, mothers, and children throbbing with 
anxiety over the issues of that day. Prayers, sighs, 
tears, and crying were there sadly commingled, until they 
were exchanged for rejoicing over the iriendly hand 
shaken by Thomas Terry and others with the Indians of 
Block Island. 

It is not so probable that the Indians told a true story 


when they said: ''The sound of the drum terrified them 
to that degree that they were afraid to come against " the 
white men, as it is that the thirty new comers, direct from 
Ninicraft their chief, informed them of the punishments 
inflicted by the whites upon the hostile tribes on the 
main-land. Moreover, Ninicraft may have sent them 
word to be at peace with the Islanders lest he should 
become involved in a war with the colonies, a disaster 
which he studiously avoided while his neighboring tribes 
were being exterminated. 

The locality of Thomas Terry's heroism is easily identi- 
fied. The Indian fort was on Fort Island, an elevated 
plat of about five acres, now belonging to Mr. Samuel 
Mott, and in a pond a little south of the Great Pond. 
These two ponds are separated by a narrow neck of sand 
over which the road now passes, and that neck is the 
" narrow beach between two ponds " in Mr. Niles' account 
quoted above. From this " beach " the road passes up 
the hill upon Indian-Head-Neck, on the northerly part of 
which was Mr. Terry's residence, said by Mr. Niles to be 
"remote from the other English inhabitants," as none 
then lived upon the Corn Neck, but about the central and 
westerly parts of the Island. The place of rendezvous 
for the heroic sixteen and a boy, was probably in the 
vicinity of Mr. Samuel Mott's residence, as Mr. Terry had 
to go there to join his comrades. The earthworks of the 
fort have all been leveled down, and the writer has been 
able to find no rehcs of it except some small pieces of 
rude pottery, although in former years the plow fre- 
quently brought to light there various evidences of In- 
dian warfare. 

Lieutenant Terry did not remain many years upon 
Block Island, but removed to Freetown, Mass., near Fall 
River, and there spent the remainder of his days. His 
military abilities were there appreciated. He was elected 


selectman of the town in 1685-6-9-70, and 1700; "was 
made a deputy to the court at Plymouth in 1689, and 
1690; and to the Council of War in 1690; " and in proof 
of the confidence in his bravery he was honored in 1686 
"with the rank and commission of a Lieutenant, em- 
powered to command all the militia of the town." (Gen. 
E. W. Peirce.) 

It is evident from the traits of character seen in him 
that he was born a hero, and only needed the occasion 
and circumstances to have taken rank with the most suc- 
cessful generals. He died in Freetown about the year 
1704, and was buried near his house on Bryant's Neck. 
As long as Block Island has descendants from the first 
settlers, so long will memory owe a debt of gratitude to 
the name of Lieut. Thomas Terry for his tactics and hero- 
ism in subduing the hostile Indians ' that threatened to 
exterminate the little pilgrim colony of early settlers. 

Mr. Terry's descendants are still living in Freetown. 
He left there three sons, Thomas, John, and Benjamin. 
Thomas, Kke his father, became lieutenant of the town 
militia, in 1715; representative to the General Court in 
1725; assessor, selectman more than twenty years, and in 
1757 was the first justice of the peace elected in Free- 
town, and was known as "Justice Terry." The maiden 
name of his widow was Anna Williams. 

Col. Abiel Terry was the son of Justice Terry, and 
seems to have inherited all the virtues of his father and 
grandfather, as weU as the offices which they filled. It is 
said of him that after having held the office of lieutenant 
of the local militia, he was promoted to the post of "Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel of the Second Regiment in the local mili- 
tia of Bristol County." He was an extensive owner of 
slaves, and died from a fall from a horse near Weir 
bridge. He is mentioned by Niles as the son of the 
Block Island Terry, but by mistake, for he was grandson 


instead, born in 1714, and forty-six years old at the date 
of Niles' mention. 

Lieut. Thomas Terry of Block Island had a son John, 
who had a son John, who had a son Zephaniah, who had 
a son Silas, who was the father of the present Manasseh 
S. Terry, Esq., of Freetown, to whom, and to Gen. E. W. 
Peirce of the same place we are indebted for much of the 
above information. 


"We find his name among those who met at the house 
of John Alcock, M. D., in Roxbury, Mass., August 17th, 
1660, there to confer about the purchase of Block Island. 
His father, of the same name, is said to have come from 
England to America in the Speedwell, a vessel accompa- 
nying the Mayflower, in 1620, and to have settled on 
Rhode Island. His son therefore, of whom we are speak- 
ing, was a descendant from the Pilgrims. In 1664 he 
was one of the number whom Capt. James Sands and 
Joseph Kent, in behalf of Block Island, presented to the 
Rhode Island General Assembly for admission as freemen. 
In 1683 he occupied a place in the Rhode Island General 
Assembly, as representative from Block Island; in 1686 
was one of the petitioners to the king of Great Britain in 
reference to the '' Quo Warranto,^^ and in 1688 was one 
of the Grand Jury of Rhode Island. 

In the year 1689, in the month of July, Mr. Rathbone 
had a very narrow escape from the French, who were 
then pillaging the Island. " They inquired of some one 
or more of the people, who were the likeliest among them 
to have money ? They told them of John Rathbone who 
was the most likely." From this we learn that he was in 
good circumstances. The French proceeded to capture 
him, and demanded of him, as they supposed, his money. 
The captive denied his having any besides a trifling sum. 


They endeavored to make him confess that he had more, 
and to deHver it to them, by tying him up and whipping 
him barbarously. While they were doing all this to an 
innocent man whom they mistook for the moneyed John 
Rathbone, the latter made his escape with his treasure. 

He indeed then had a son by the name of John, who, 
by bearing his father's name, and by submitting to this 
terrible scourging, shielded his father and saved him from 
being robbed. This son probably lived in the house 
which stood near his father's, as the locations are still 
known by the descendants of the first settler. 

In 1696, Thomas, William, John, and Joseph, probably 
sons of the original settler, together with several other 
Block Island names, by the same Assembly, were admitted 
freemen of the colony of Rhode Island. 

In 1688, William Rathbone was appointed by the col- 
ony as constable for Block Island. 

In 1700, Thomas Rathbone was representative in the 
General Assembly, from Block Island, and held that office 
several years. 

In 1709, John Rathbone, Jr., of Block Island, was ad- 
mitted freeman of the Rhode Island colony. Twenty-five 
years afterward another of the same name was admitted, 
together with Edward Sands, Samuel Dodge, Daniel 
Dickens, William Dodge, Jr., and John Mitchell, '' all of 
New Shoreham." 

In 1711, Capt. Thomas Rathbone represented Block 
Island in the General Assembly, and also in the year 1731. 

In 1720, Thomas Rathbone, Jr., was admitted freeman 
of Block Island and the colony of Rhode Island. 

In 1741, Nathaniel Rathbone, together with Robert 
Hull and Samuel Dunn, was admitted freeman of Rhode 
Island colony, from New Shoreham. 

In 1759, John Rathbone, "son of John, late of New 
Shoreham," was admitted freeman of Exeter, R. I. He 


was probably the son John Rathbone, Jr., mentioned 
above, and in 1709 admitted freeman. It is more than 
possible that he bore the name of his grandfather, the 
first Rathbone of the Island. 

This succession of Rathbones brings us within the 
limits of a valuable old bible record now in the possession 
of Mr. Walter Rathbone Mott, an aged relative of the 
above individuals, and a respected citizen of Block Island. 
This bible, printed at Oxford in 1725, was owned by 
Samuel Rathbone in 1743, and from him was bequeathed 
to his son Samuel, and after him to Walter, the son of 
the latter Samuel. Walter, at his death, gave it to his 
daughter, Mrs. Catharine R. Mott, and to his grandson, 
Walter R. Mott, the present owner. Unlike too many 
bibles at the present time which are kept to show gilt, 
and gather dust, it was 

" The family bible that lay on the stand/* 
and was used until its first binding was worn off, and 
many years ago was rebound; a quarto whose well-worn 
corners, and carefully preserved leaves, like others of the 
same character on Block Island, speaks well for the de- 
voted little band of Pilgrims around whose hearth-stones, 
amid savages, beyond protection from the main-land, the 
husband, the father, the mother, and the children read 
and worshiped, and prayed for protection, while the war- 
whoop of the Indian and the "voice of many waters " 
commingled with the howling winds that were shaking 
their doors and windows. 

Samuel Rathbone, born August 3, 1672, died Jan. 24, 
1757, aged 85 years. He was the father of the Samuel 
who owned the bible above-mentioned. 

In April, 1705, Samuel Rathbone, Jr., was born on 
Block Island, and in the year 1755, at the age of fifty, 
was a member of the Rhode Island Assembly, as repre- 
sentative of the Island. He died Jan. 24, 1780, aged 75 


years. In 1775, and 1776, he was lieutenant in Capt. 
John Sands' company of militia here. 

In June, 1734, Walter, son of Samuel Rathbone, Jr., 
was born, and in the year 1757, together with Oliver 
Ring Rose, and William Willis, was admitted freeman, 
and in the year 1774, he was representative of Block 
Island in the General Assembly, and in the same year 
was appointed by the Islanders, at a town meeting, as one 
of a committee "to give the closest attention to every 
thing which concerns the liberties of America." They 
were to resist vigorously the duty on tea, enforced by 
England. Walter, for sixty years, was town clerk. 

In May, 1768, James and Catharine Rathbone, twins, 
and children of Walter, were bom. Their sister Hannah 
married Mr. Archibald Millikin, and her granddaughter 
became the wife of the Hon. Nicholas Ball, proprietor of 
the Ocean View Hotel. Samuel Rathbone was father of 
Capt. Thomas Rathbone, now living upon the Island. 

The above clew, leading us back more than two centu- 
ries, may be gratifying to those who would trace the liv- 
ing descendants' relation to the first Rathbone who settled 
upon the Island, and it may assist in tracing out the vari- 
ous branches of the Rathbone family in America, all of 
whom, it is supposed, originated from the Thomas Rath- 
bone who came from England in 1620, and was the father 
of the John Rathbone who bought a sixteenth of Block 
Island in 1660, and settled here in 1662. 

The outlines of the cellar (now filled) where the latter 
lived may be seen, about one hundred rods southwest 
from the residence of Mr. Amhad Dodge, and owned by 
Mr. Nathan Mott. A beautiful spring of water is near, 
and the place where the garden plat once was is greener 
than the adjacent meadow sward. From that point the 
natural scenery is charming, and it is easy to imagine the 
large orchard once there in bloom, the prattle of children, 


the herds of sheep and cattle, and sturdy men and mat- 
rons planting one of the most interesting little colonies 
ever known. 

About sixteen years ago considerable was said in the 
public journals concerning "the great Rathbone estate of 
forty millions advertised by the Bank of England, await- 
ing the call of American heirs who were supposed to 
have settled on Block Island, in America, or in parts 
thereunto adjacent." In order to get, if possible, a ray 
of light from that ignis-fatuus which so many have fol- 
lowed through tangled and "endless genealogies,'' of 
which an ancient writer well said — "Neither give heed," 
(1 Tim. 4, 4,) a visitor at the Spring House here borrowed 
the old bible in 1876. It is an undoubted fact, however, 
that the Block Island Rathbones, as well as others in 
America, have descended from an honorable race of 
Saxon origin, in England, of whom one writer says they 
have been a distinct family there "for more than five 
hundred years. A wealthy branch of this family has 
resided in the city of Liverpool more than three hundred 


He was born upon Block Island, May 1st, 1674, and 
was the son of Nathaniel Niles of the same place, and 
subsequently of Kingston, R. I. 

Samuel was the grandson of John Niles, a weaver, of 
Braintree, Mass., and of Capt. James and Sarah Sands of 
Block Island. He descended from a robust ancestry, 
both physically and intellectually. His grandfather Niles 
died at the age of ninety-four, and the sturdy character 
of his grandparents Sands may be seen in the biographi- 
cal sketch of James Sands and his wife, who was the first 
physician of the Island, and one of the first emancipation- 
ists of America. His own father, Capt. Nathaniel Niles, 
died at the age of eighty-seven. 


Here, on the Island, the son spent his boyhood, and a 
part of his youth, making himself familiar with the 
habits and traditions of the Indians. He says of them, 
and of himself: "They were perpetually engaged in wars 
one with another, long before the English settled on 
Block Island, according to the Indians' relation, as some 
of the old men among them informed me, when I was 
young." He was a very bright and promising boy, and 
well improved his good opportunity for obtaining an edu- 
cation. His studies, however, were greatly interrupted 
by English and French wars, as the French committed 
great depredations upon the Island, of which he says: 
'' The great spoil made on the Island by the French, in 
their repeated visits, and particularly on my father's in- 
terest, occasioned my staying from school six years." 
During this interruption he labored on the farm, and 
assisted in building a vessel for trade with the West 
Indies. Thus he spent the period from the age of sixteen 
to twenty-two, and then entered coUege at Cambridge, 
"the Reverend Dr. Increase Mather then being Presi- 
dent," and Mr, John Leverett and Mr. "William Brattle 
"were the only fellows." He graduated in 1699. An 
item worthy of note here is the fact that he, a native of 
Block Island, was the first one from the State of Rhode 
Island to enter college. In speaking of his teachers there 
he says: "The kindness of these worthy gentlemen I 
hope not to forget, who, I conclude, favored me the more, 
as I was the first that came to college from Rhode Island gov- 

Soon after graduating he returned to the Island, where, 
in March, 1700, he received a most cordial invitation from 
the whole town to become a settled preacher of the gos- 
pel. As yet he had not been formally set apart by an 
ecclesiastical council to the work of the ministry. This, 
however, was not an insurmountable obstacle in the way 


of preaching the gospel, in the estimation of the Island- 
ers, who were deeply sensible of their need, as they ex- 
pressed it, of providing for their ''souls to be fed with 
His heavenly manna." On the condition of his accept- 
ance of their call, they deeded to him seven acres of land 
lying between the Fresh Pond and Capt. Edward Sands' 
house — the house now owned and occupied by Mr. John 
R. Paine. At that time no church was organized on the 
Island, and he officiated only as a Hcentiate, or his denom- 
ination, "the Congregationalist, would not have tolerated 
in him then an administration of the ordinances. 

Mr. Niles retained possession of said land by the Fresh 
Pond until 1716, and then sold it for £105. 

He was ordained and settled at Braintree May 23, 
1711. He wrote, in 1760, a history of the Indian and 
French wars. From the French he suffered much, 
pecuniarily and bodily, while he was on Block Island 
taking care of his grandparents, Capt. James Sands and 
his wife. He wrote somewhat extensively on theological 
subjects. In 1818, President John Adams spoke of him 
thus respectfully: "Almost sixty years ago I was an 
humble acquaintance of this venerable clergyman, then, 
as I believe, more than four score years of age, * * * 
I then revered, and still revere, the honest, virtuous, and 
pious man." He died May 1, 1762, just eighty-eight 
years old. 

The following record which he left of himself is in- 
structive in several respects, as exhibiting not only his own 
character, but that of the invaders, and the indignities to 
which the Islanders, about the year 1689, were subjected. 
He says: "Before the year was expired some of the same 
company with others, landed in the night and surprised 
the people in their beds, and proceeded in like manner as 
before, plundering houses, stripping the people of their 
clothing, killing creatures and making great waste and 


spoil, but killed no person. I suppose I was the greatest 
sufferer of any under their hands at that time; for before 
I had dressed myself, one of their company rushed into 
the chamber where I lodged. After some free and seem- 
ingly famihar questions he asked me, which I answered 
with like freedom: but being alone, without any of his 
company, not knowing what dangers might befall him (as 
I after apprehended), on a sudden, and with a different 
air, he says to me, 'Go down, you dog.' To which 1 
replied, ' Presently, as soon as I have put on my stockings 
and shoes.' At which, with the muzzle of his gun he 
gave me a violent thrust at the pit of my stomach, that it 
threw me backward on the bed, as I was sitting on the 
bed-side, so that it was some time before I could recover 
my breath. As soon as I could, I gathered them up. . 
He drew his cutlass and beat me, smiting me with all his 
power, to the head of the stairs, and it was a very large 
chamber. He followed me down .the stairs, and then 
bound my hands behind me with a sharp, small line 
which soon made my hands swell and become painful. 
How I managed after with my stockings and shoes I have 
now forgotten. However, after this I met with no abuse 
from them the whole time of their stay on the Island." 
This was during the second invasion. 

For the above, and similar accounts of occurrences on 
Block Island, the name of their author, who knew them 
to be truthful, ought to be cherished in grateful remem- 
brance by all subsequent generations. And as we are 
now grateful to him for the historical facts which he has 
preserved from oblivion, so w^e may learn our own obliga- 
tions to keep a record of the present for the benefit of 
others hereafter. How gladly would we learn of Mr. 
Niles some of the simplest things of his day on this 
Island ! Such as where the different houses were located, 
how certain names originated, and where certain things 


occuiTed, etc. Were it not from circumstantial evidence 
from Mr. Niles, combined with similar evidence from orig- 
inal surveys and deeds, it would seem impossible to identify 
the spot where Capt. James Sands' house of stone was 
erected, and where the location was of the "garrison," 
sustained on Block Island, previous to 1700, partly by the 
colony, and chiefly by the Islanders for their protection 
against Indians and invaders. Even now there are public 
houses here which may be as little known two hundred 
years hence, unless a knowledge of them shall be pre- 
served by a written record. To-day not an inhabitant can 
tell where the most noted spot of the Island was in 1690. 
That spot was where Capt. James Sands' house, and the 
garrison close by it, were erected. We regret that Mr. 
Niles has told us no more. 

In rapidly tracing the steps of Mr. Niles from his 
youth on Block Island to his grave in Braintree we shall 
be much indebted to Professor Park, of Andover. All 
the germs of the sturdy character of Mr. Niles were seen 
in his youth upon this Island. Here he toiled for a sup- 
port; here he tenderly cared for his grandparents; here 
he firmly resisted the Roger Williams' spirit of the Island- 
ers, even in the persons of his venerated grandparents; 
here he exhibited his unwillingness to yield a point, as 
when he leisurely drew on his stockings in the night while 
under the flourishing weapons of a robber; here he dis- 
played his financial ability, as when he accepted that part 
of the call to the ministry of Block Island — that part 
which consisted of a deed of seven acres of land which, 
after he settled at Braintree, he sold for £105; and here 
he exhibited that lack of appreciation of an ardent zeal 
in religion which subsequently characterized a pastorate 
of half a century without a revival. '^Mr. Niles exhib- 
ited here a specimen of that irrational conservatism which 
loses the greater good in order to avoid the lesser evil." 


Had he been more flexible and ardent perhaps his long 
pastorate would have been upon Block Island, instead of 
that at Braintree, and it is possible that the Islanders 
might have become Congregationalists instead of being 

Mr. Niles had more than an ordinary scliolarship for 
his time. He was a very good linguist, and most profi- 
cient in the Latin language. He seems to have been cold 
and logical, like Emmons, and as far in practice from 
Whitefield as is the North Pole from the Equator. Of 
the five works of which he was the author, the only one 
now of public interest is that for which he could not get 
a pubhsher — ^his history of the Indian and French Wars. 
Professor Park says: "Mr. Niles was a remarkably inde- 
pendent man. He did not countenance the revivalists 
whom Edwards befriended. He refused to admit White- 
field into his pulpit. In the early years of Braintree the 
town had been disturbed and the church injured by the 
fanaticism of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson. Mr. Niles, remem- 
bering the troubles caused by her new measures, resisted 
the new measures of Whitefield and his associates." 
The professor quotes from Mr. Niles, as saying: ''Mr. 
Whitefield is now (1745) making a second visit to us, in 
pompous progress, from town to town, followed with the 
loud acclamations of many people, while some from whom 
more manly things might be expected, seem to lay their 
necks at his feet, to trample on at pleasure, as if his word 
was not only his own, but their law also, according to 
that, '■Stat pro ratione voluntas.^ " 

"It is obvious from the writings of Mr. Niles, that he 
confined his attention to the evils of revivalism in his day, 
and did not look through them to the real good which 
overbalanced the evils. His church was not distracted 
by the wild enthusiasm of the times; this was a blessing; 


but the church was favored with no revival for sixty 
years; this was a calamity far outweighing the blessing." 

The Block Islanders to-day may rejoice that in the 
infancy of their society they had such men as James 
Sands and Simon Ray, fired by the spirit of Roger Wil- 
liams, to resist the influence of the cramping, cold formal- 
ism of a leader of Mr. Niles' temperament. " He preached 
his own ordination sermon." "Stern in his doctrine, he 
was also strong in his will. He was severe in the disci- 
pline of himself and of his household. He was the 
bishop and ruler of his people. He trained his parishion- 
ers, as his children, in the way they should go." 

His tact in business affairs, seen on Block Island, as he 
accepted the deed for the land without rendering for it 
the service expected, in 1700, was subsequently exhibited 
at Braintree. Whether he inherited, or learned his 
shrewdness of the Islanders, or acquired it after he 
"entered into the College at Cambridge, the Rev. Dr. In- 
crease Mather then being President," and became a citi- 
zen of Massachusetts, it is not easy to determine. 

" Randolph, Quincy, and Braintree, were formerly one 
town. When Randolph was separated from Braintree it 
seemed needful to run the dividing line in a certain direc- 
tion, which would give to Braintree a comely shape, and 
promote the convenience of Randolph. But if the line 
had been drawn in that most suitable course, it would cut 
off a large farm of Mr. Mies; and for that farm, being 
then in Randolph, and not in his own town, he would be 
compelled to pay taxes. The pastor was roused; he peti- 
tioned the great and General Court, and caused the divid- 
ing line to be run so as to include his own farm in his 
own parish, and thus to save his taxes, although this 
process gave to the Braintree township a singularly un- 
couth form, and disturbed the comfort of Randolph. 
This was done before he wrote his treatise on oria^inal sin. 


What minister, at the present day, could spoil the config- 
uration of two townships, in order to accommodate his 
own agricultural interests ? 

"An inditer of rhymes, an historian, a metaphysical 
and biblical divine, an exact disciplinarian, having an 
iron will and an indomitable perseverance, this many- 
sided pastor was noted far and wide as a man of affairs. 
He was, for example, an expert horseman. He drove a 
charger that no other man in his parish could ride. When 
the pastor mounted him, the animal moved along at a 
slow, stately pace, bat when a layman ventured upon the 
back of the animal, he became very soon, in a physical 
as well as ecclesiastical aspect, a lay -man. If a farmer in 
the region owned a vicious colt, intractable to the yeo- 
manry of the town, he led the unruly beast to the bishop, 
who was a kind of Rarey; and the dignified elder sub- 
dued the colt, almost as easily as he would put the bit 
and bridle upon a wayward parishioner who undertook to 
leap over the parish fence and run away from his taxes." 

Mr. Niles, in spite of his original sin, and manifest 
follies, was a man of more than ordinary excellences. 
Like others who have gone from Block Inland, he has re- 
flected honor back upon the place of his nativity, both in 
his life and in his posterity. He had a son Samuel, who 
graduated at Harvard in 1731, and was subsequently 
known as the Hon. Samuel Niles, of Braintree. The lat- 
ter had two sons who became distinguished, viz.: Rev. 
Samuel Niles, of Abington, Mass., and Judge Nathaniel 
Niles, of Fairlee, Vermont. Both of these grandsons of 
the Block Islander, and Braintree Divine, '^inherited his 
sharpness of insight; and in consequence of their skill in 
perplexing an adversary, each was called Botheration Xiles. 
Each received this sobriquet while he was a member of 
Princeton college, the pastor of Abington being then des- 


ignated, Botheration priraus, and the judge at Fairlee being 
then called, Botheration secundus.''^ 

The Block Island records contain many items of inter- 
est concerning the Niles family; none of the name, how- 
ever, are living there now, but many relatives by marriage. 
The following indicates the line of descent. 

John Niles, of Braintree, 1639-1696; his son, Capt. 
Nathaniel Niles, of Braintree and Block Island, 1640- 
1727; his son. Rev. Samuel Niles, Block Island and 
Braintree, 1674-1762; his sons. Rev. Samuel, and Judge 
Nathaniel. From this line, those who desire, can trace 
out various branches. See address of R. S. Storrs, D. D., 
at Braintree, 1861; Rhode Island colonial records, and 
Hon. Wm. P. Sheffield's historical sketch of Block Island. 


This name early appeared upon the records of Block 
Island, but of late years it has not been numbered among 
its citizens. 

Mr. William Angell, in the latter part of the Revolution 
hired a farm on the Island, and by permit from the General 
Assembly moved here his family and furniture. This was 
in the year 1782. 

Hon. Williain G. Angell, born on Block Island, moved 
to Burlington, Otsego County, N. Y., and there, in 1825, 
was elected a representative in Congress, reelected in 
1829, and was a member of the committee on Indian 
affairs and on the territories. Dr. Angell of Providence 
has lived here and is a summer visitor, professionally, and 
for pleasure. 


The first inhabitant here of this name seems to have 
been one Mr. Edward Ball who was deputy v/arden to the 
town in 1702, and was also entitled ''Crowner," as repre- 

BALL. 3 1 9 

senting in authority the Crown of England, and held the 
relation of sheriff to the constable and people. 

Mr. John Ball appears next in time on the records, and 
was admitted freeman on Block Island in 1709. Whether, 
or how related to Edward we cannot state. 

Hon. Peter Ball was admitted freeman in 1709, and in 
1734 represented the Island in the General Assembly- 
together with Simon Ray. In 1735, he was among the 
foremost in building the new pier — ^in obtaining for it an 
appropriation from the State of £1,200. He with Simon 
Ray was appointed by the Assembly to appropriate said 
money for its legitimate pui'pose, in 1735. 

Mr. Isaiah Ball, one of the old landmarks, passed away 
about the beginning of the present century, knowm as a 
hardy, industrious farmer. 

Mr. John S. Ball, son of Isaiah, is now between seventy 
and eighty years old, living where his father lived, doing 
as he did, with a plenty of life's necessaries, free from its 
ostentations, and with a feeling of independence known 
to but few whose fortunes are top-heavy. He glories in 
having lived so long "without a doctor,'' and in a defiance 
of the medical profession. He is bound to die, he says, a 
" natral death.''^ 

Mr. Samuel Ball, a cotemporary of Isaiah, is well re- 
membered as a man of energy, straightforward dealing, 
and extraordinary memory. He seems to have been the 
oracle of the Island in regard to its ancient traditions. 
Of him it was frequently said: "He is as good as the 

Mr. Samuel Ball, son of the former, still survives, 
occupying the old mansion left by his father, and in his 
old age is carrying out the good principles w^hich he in- 
herited. "While his strong will exhibited in stirring habits 
and in a life of rigid honesty, will long be remembered, 
his decided expressions of love for the right and disap- 


proval of the wrong, so often heard, in all places, will not 
easily slip from the memory. 

The numerous branches of the Ball family now on the 
Island are not easily traced to their respective origins. 
The following is a brief sketch of one of them, who has 
taken rank among the first men of the Island, and of the 

Hon. Nicholas Ball, born in December, 1828, inherited 
a fondness for the sea, and when a young boy shipped as 
cook for $6.00 a month, and during the next summer had 
$7.00 a month. Subsequent to this a few years were 
spent at school, and in working for farmers at ten to 
twenty five cents a day, until March, 1843, when he again 
shipped as cook for $10.00 a month, and afterwards as 
seaman for $15.00 a month, and rose to the position of 
chief mate, on wages at $28.00 a month, visiting, mean- 
while, Philadelphia, Albany, West Indies, Liverpool, 
Havre, and San Francisco, spending 161 days in going 
around Cape Horn to the last place, in 1849. After two 
years in California, mining, he returned to Block Islan?? 
in 1851, and in October following went back to the gold 
mines again. In 1854, he started his mercantile business 
on Block Island, which he still continues, and that year 
was elected representative in the General Assembly, and 
reelected in 1855; was elected State Senator in 1858; re- 
elected in 1859, '63, '64, '65, '66, '67, '68, '69, '70, 
'71, '72; and in 1873 declined an election to either State 
or home office. In 1867, assisted by his colleague, Hon. 
J. G. Sheffield, he began the long and laborious campaign 
of securing a government harbor for Block Island, for 
which his townsmen and the public will ever owe him a 
debt of gratitude. In this brief sketch only an index can 
be given of the time, money, and personal effort put forth 
by him in this national enterprise, — one which had repeat- 
edly proved a failure under the administrations of the 

BRIGGS. 321 

town alone, and the town and colony combined, as seen in 
the article on the Harhor. 

Mr. Ball's good judgment, personal influence, indomi- 
table perseverance and success in this public enterprise, 
furnish an example which it would be gratifying to see 
others endeavoring to excel. Those comphment him a 
little too highly, perhaps, who credit him with so much 
success in spite of their superior advantages claimed for 
the Great Pond as a National Harbor. 

His personal interviews with congressmen at Washing- 
ton, with the Boards of Trade at Philadelphia, at Xew 
York, at Providence, and at Boston, visiting some of 
these cities repeatedly; his petitions obtained by him from 
mercantile firms in Bangor, Boston, Newport, Provi- 
dence, Stonington, New London, New York, Philadel- 
phia, and other places directed to their respective con- 
gressmen; and his unceasing correspondence, all of which 
was carried on from 1867 to 1870, required an expense 
of time, money, and brain which but few could afford. 
Both approvals and complaints point to Hon. Nicholas 
Ball, as the principal founder of the government harbor 
at Block Island, and while accepting some of the pecuni- 
ary fruits of the enterprise, he enjoys the satisfaction of 
seeing his town enriched thereby thousands of dollars 
where he is profited hundreds. His retirement from pub- 
lic life, and devotion to his family, Island society, and 
the pleasures of the visitors, especially to those at the 
Ocean View Hotel, of which he is proprietor, afford him 
ample opportunity for reviewing the past and hoping for 
the future. 


About the beginning of the eighteenth century two 
brothers of this name came from England to the United 
States, one of whom settled in Maine, and the other, 

Joseph Briggs, settled at Kingston, R. I., and subse- 


quently moved to Block Island where lie married Mar- 
gary Dodge. The old records of the Island in 1758, 
speak of him as leashig of the town its blacksmith shop. 
Here, upon the Island, he raised a family of seven chil- 
dren, namely, Nathaniel, Joseph, Patience, Burton, Sam- 
uel, Lydia, and Eathon. 

Nathaniel, born about the year 1758, held the confidence 
and esteem of the whole community for his sterling worth 
and unblemished character in his public and domestic 
relations. As an active member of the Baptist church he 
was brought into association with many of the most prom- 
inent men of the State. The principal part of the mer- 
cantile business of the Isi^nd w^as transacted at his store. 
The residence built by him, located about south of the 
"Woonsockett House, on the opposite side of the street, 
and known as ''the great house," was finally taken down, 
and many of its timbers were put into the two-story house, 
near the old location, and now owned and occupied by 
Mr. Solomon Dodge. In the year 1802 Mr. Briggs visited 
New York for medical treatment, and there died, aged 
forty-four years. His son, 

Collins G. Briggs, was born on Block Island, Sept. 30, 
1798, and in the war of 1812 served his country in the 
United States Navy, and subsequently followed the sea in 
the merchants' service, until he removed to Exeter, Otsego 
Co., N. Y., where he married and settled in agricultural 
. pursuits. From thence, in the spring of 1836, he re- 
moved to the town of German, Chenango Co., N. Y., and 
there bought and cultivated the " Bowen farm," and dis- 
tinguished himself as an enterprising, moral citizen. 
This was in the native place, and during the boyhood of 
the writer, whose conscience still troubles him a little over 
the disturbances to which he w^as accessory at those good 
old Methodist meetings in the school-house at the "Cor- 
ners " — meetings in which Mr. Briggs was a class leader. 

BRIGGS. 323 

At that place he died, Nov. 12, 1874, aged 76 years, 
leaving a sister, Mrs. Mary C. Eldridge, of New York 
city, and four children, three sons and one daughter, 
Luzerne J. Briggs, still residing in German: and Manas- 
seh and Munroe A. Briggs, in Brookl3rn. 

Manasseh, in the firm of Briggs & Co., 90 Wall St., 
N. Y., carries on the coal and shipping business. His for- 
mer wife was a Block Island la^dy, Mary A., daughter of 
Capt. Nathaniel and Lucretia Littlefield. She died in 
Brooklyn, June, 1862. 

Joseph Briggs, brother of Nathaniel, in early life settled 
in Exeter, N. Y,, where he followed farming until his 
death, in August, 1841, aged 77 years, leaving two 
daughters and one son. 

Jeremiah Briggs^ born on the Island, Dec. 30, 1792, in 
early life evinced a fondness for the sea, and in the War 
of 1812 had command of a United States gun-boat. 
After some years in the merchants' service at sea, he and 
his cousin, Capt. Nathaniel Briggs, established the firm of 
the "J. & N. Briggs Transportation Co.," between New 
York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Subsequently they 
accepted the agency of the Camden and Amboy Trans- 
portation Co., known as the inside canal line, and desig- 
nated as the ^'Briggs Swift Sure Line," for about forty 
years. Captain Briggs was^one of those energetic, vigor- 
ous men who by their own activity keep things around 
them in motion. He had not only a head for business, 
but also a heart for benevolence, as seen in his connection 
with the "Seaman's Fund and Retreat," on Staten Island, 
and with the "Marine Society," of the port of New York. 
During all his long and busy life his mind reverted to the 
Island of his childhood with feelings of peculiar tender- 
ness, and in his old age frequently directed his letters to 
his old friends thus, — " Block Island — the holy land." 
His last visit to the Island was in August, 1872, and in 


the Nautical Gazette of Aug. 24, 1872, it was thus alluded 

'' Capt. Jeremiah Briggs is a veteran of the "War of 1812, 
and now upwards of 80 years old, is well known to our 
readers as one of the proprietors of the Swift Sure Line 
of freight propellers pl}'ing daily between this city and 
Philadelphia. He sailed in the first privateer out of this 
harbor in 1812, and has spent much of his long and use- 
ful life on the sea. He is a remarkably hale, hearty, and 
well-preserved old gentleman, and still enjoys life with a 
zest that would put to shame the hlase fast time of the 
day. The captain has a fine farm on the Jamaica turn- 
pike, at Richmond Hill, Long Island, where he resides 
with his wife and family of grown-up sons and daughters 
— a credit to him, as well as a comfort to his declining 
years." He died at his residence, June 28, 1876, aged 
84 years, and is still respectfully remembered on his be- 
loved "little isle of the sea," where his name is frequently 
and familiarly spoken as Uncle Jerry Briggs. 

Samuel Briggs, a native of the Island, and son of the 
first of that name here, spent his life in the place of his 
nativity. His son, 

Nathaniel Briggs, born on the Island in 1802, by his 
fondness for the sea became master of a ship, and for 
several years sailed from the port of New York, and sub- 
sequently became the partner of Capt. Jeremiah, as before 
stated, and continued such until the death of the senior 
of the firm of J. & N. Briggs, since which event he has 
retired from active business. He has been distinguished 
for his benevolence in connection with several public in- 
stitutions, and is an honored member in the Methodist 
Episcopal church in Brooklyn, where he has resided for 
many years. 

Eatlion Briggs, son of the senior Joseph, born upon 
Block Island, was lost at sea in early manhood. His son, 


Eathon C. Briggs, born upon the Island, became master 
of a ship, and sailed from New York several years, and 
then entered the mercantile business in said city, and in 
1849 removed with his family to Kinsmon, Trumbull Co., 
0., where he has carried on farming successfully. He 
and his brother, Capt. Nathaniel Briggs, are the only 
living male descendants of the original family of Joseph 
Briggs, the first above mentioned. 

For nearly all of the above sketch the writer is indebted 
to his esteemed friend and companion in boyhood days, 
Manasseh Briggs, Esq., of Brooklyn, N. Y. None of the 
name, for thirty years, have been residents of the Island. 


Previous to the Revolution a family of this name re- 
sided upon Block Island. In January, 1782, one Henry 
Chcmiplin, formerly of Westerly, R. 1., in a petition to 
the Assembly, stated that, " about two years ago he hired 
a farm upon New Shoreham, and went there with his 
family to reside; that the attachment that he had for the 
interest and good of his country led him, upon all occa- 
sions and opportunities, to give such information respect- 
ing the movements of the enemy, that he is considered 
by them as a dangerous person to their interest ; and that 
he has had several informations lately that the refugees 
intend to destroy his property at New Shoreham, seize 
his person, and carry him off to New York." He was 
therefore permitted to move from the Island. His son, 

Nathaniel Champlm, about the year 1790, married 
Thankful Hull, of Block Island, daughter of Capt. Ed- 
ward Hull, and here, for many years was an active, prom- 
inent citizen, distinguishing himself somewhat by his 
fondness for and mastery of horses. He was the Rarey of 
the Island, but in his own way, and subdued intractable 


steeds by the rule, — similia similihus curantur. For exam- 
ple, while at the Harbor on horseback, a considerable dis- 
tance from home, he undertook to carry back a bushel 
basket. The fiery young horse, seeing the basket handed 
up to its rider, wheeled, snorted, and would not allow 
Mr. Champlin to take it. " You have got to take that 
basket home!" said the rider, and dismounted; tied up 
the reins, tied the basket to the horse's tail, and let him 
go with basket following and heels flying. At another 
time, to cure a horse that was sensitive about rattling 
noises, he put a few small stones into an empty tin powder 
can and tied it to the skittish horse's caudal appendage, 
and let the horse loose in the pasture to enjoy all the free- 
dom of running and kicking that the rattling can could 
produce. It is said that a bundle of rye straw on fire 
was sometimes a substitute for the basket and the tin 

Mr. Champlin reared an excellent family of children, 
three of them now living upon the Island, Uriah Champ- 
lin, 81 years old, Peleg, and Christopher, younger brothers, 
aged, well-to-do, and highly-esteemed citizens. John, son 
of Christopher, and Edward and Weeden, sons of Peleg, 
are excellent farmers. 


Roger Dickens was admitted freeman in 1709 as a resi- 
dent of Block Island, and we find none here of that name 
any earlier. 

Thomas Dickens, in the year 1725, was likewise ad- 
mitted freeman, was the grandfather of the present Ray- 
mond Dickens, and was representative for the Island at 
the General Assembly in 1744, and was on the Island at 
the breaking out of the Revolution, remaining on it dur- 
ing that conflict, going off and returning by permit of the 
Assembly in 1779. He died between eighty and ninety 

DODGE. 327 

years old. He married Sally Franklin, Oct. 9, 1763. 
She was born Sept. 27, 1734, and died Feb. 4, 1792. 

Caleb Dickens^ son of Thomas, was born October 2, 
1777, and died December 5, 1839, aged sixty-two years. 

Mr. Raymond Dickens, son of Caleb, now living at the 
age of nearly seventy-five years, is one of the most hale, 
cheerful, and highly- esteemed old citizens of the Island. 
He well remembers hearing his grandfather Thomas tell 
about the "Palatine," and of the humane treatment of its 
unfortunate inmates by the Islanders. His sons Anderson 
and Luther Dickens are I'espectable residents. 

Daniel Dickens wsiS a resident of Block Island in 1734, 
and was then admitted freeman. 

A7nos Dickens was also admitted in 1759. 

Much of the above record is obtained from the family 
Bible, now one hundred and thirty years old, in the pos- 
session of Raymond Dickens, Esq. It contains names and 
dates of the Tosh family also. 

Elisha Dickens is one of the oldest inhabitants of the 
Island, and a respected citizen of the West Side. 


This name appears on the first records of the Island. 

Trustarani Dodge was one of the first settlers who came 
here in 1662. He was not one of the first purchasers of 
the Island; like several others who came with him to 
occupy lands obtained of some of the sixteen proprietors. 
He died in 1733; his name was sometimes written Tris- 
tram, and he was admitted freeman in 1664, among the 
first freemen of Block Island. 

John Dodge occuj^ied the Minister's Land in 1691, ac- 
cording to the old records, and was admitted freeman in 
1709, was representative in the General Assembly in 1745 
and 1751. 

Nathaniel Dodge was admitted freemen in 1709, at the 


same time as John's admission, and perhaps they were 
brothers or cousins. 

David Dodge was admitted freeman in 1728, and Alex- 
ander Dodge in 1721. Samuel, and William, Jr., were 
admitted in 1734. In 1744, Nathaniel Dodge was ad- 
mitted, and in 1745, another by the name of William, 
Hezekiah Dodge was on the Island in 1775, at the begin- 
ning of the Revolution, and probably remained here 
through that distressing period. 

Rev. Thomas Dodge, a native of the Island, was 
ordained to the pastorate of the First Baptist church of 
the Island in 1784, and continued to be its pastor until 
his death in 1804. See " Churches of Block Island." 

The Dodges who were children at his death have grown 
up, and passed away, until only here and there one re- 
mains. Edmund died in 1875, and Samuel died January 
2, 1877. Others of their name are more numerous than 
those of any other name on the Island. They are all, or 
a part, descendants, doubtless, from the Dodge among the 
first settlers, but their genealogy is so entangled and so 
imperfectly recorded as to discourage any attempt to trace 
it out. Amhad, and his brother "William; Joshua, his 
brothers Andrew and Noah; Aaron, and his brother Ed- 
win, may be considered as links connecting the present 
with the past generations. Oliver Dodge, father of Sam- 
uel, is still remembered, though he died many years ago. 
Robert Dodge is also mentioned as a preacher of a former 


It is not from any want of respect that she is here 
spoken of under this heading. By this name she is best 
known by all of her many old and young acquaintances. 
The multitude of strangers who have stood at her cottage 
window on Block Island, and have there seen her work 
the old-fashioned treadles, harnesses, shuttle, lathe, and 

''AUNT BETSEY." 329 

beams of her loom, and have heard her pleasant stories of 
her youth, motherhood, industry, and family of children, 
would consider any description of the Island incomplete 
that should say nothing of " Aunt Betsey." What a 
correspondent of the Scranton Rejnchlican said of her will 
do to repeat : 

"And here it must not be forgotten to mention the 
name of Aunt Betsey Dodge, not as one of the beautiful 
young ladies, but as a true representative of the olden 
time. She is seventy-six years of age, straight as an 
arrow, industrious to a fault, and one of the best talking 
Yankee women we ever met. She spends her time in 
weaving carpets, turning out piece after piece to the 
astonishment of everybody; and standing by her loom, 
which she has worked upwards of sixty years, the thought 
arose that it was just such women as Aunt Betsey, with 
her industrious economy and good sense, who gave caste 
and character to the American people, and laid the foun- 
dations of their wealth. Such were the mothers in the 
infancy of our republic." 

The above is sustained by the following statistics: At 
the age of seventy-six, during the year, she wove one 
thousand yards of rag carpeting, and four hundred yards 
of flannel, and spent three weeks "a visiting," besides 
doing her own general housework. Almost her entire 
life has been spent at the loom, and the number of yards 
she has woven seems incredible. What she did the year 
in which she kept a record, at seventy-six, of course was 
more than equaled in younger years, and she "always had 
all she could do," As she was almost constantly weaving 
for sixty years, if we give her credit for only 1,000 yards 
a year (including "tow cloth," kersey, flannel, and carpet- 
ing), the whole of her life-work would amount to 60,000 
yards, which, if all put into one piece, would reach from 
Block Island to Newport, and have enough left to encircle 


that city. But her highly-esteemed children and grand- 
children, of whom her mention has caused so many a 
stranger to smile, and of whom she may well be proud, 
will be the best monument of ''Aunt Betsey," after Time's 
shuttle has left its last thread in the warp of her busy 
life's web. She has retired. 

For industry and good sense she may be taken as a 
sample of many other true "help-meets" of Block Island. 


This is among the early names of Block Island. John 
Guthridge came to Watertown, Mass., in 1636. William 
Guthridge was there in 1642. They probably learned of 
the enterprise of settling the Island through Peter Noyes, 
their cotemporary and neighbor in Watertown, since he 
surveyed the Island for the settlers, and soon after. 

Robert Guthridge settled upon the Island, and was evi- 
dently an active, promising citizen, until his death in 
1692. By the inventory of his estate we learn that he 
was in comfortable circumstances, and besides other land 
owned "42 acres in the west woods," inventoried at "20 
shillings pr. acre." 

Henry Gardner represented the Island in the Assembly 
in the year 1741. 


Two men of this name a century ago were prominent 
on Block Island. 

Captain Rohert Hull, in 1741, was here admitted free- 
man, and in 1743 represented the Island in the General 
Assembly, and continued to do so until 1758, a period of 
fifteen years. In 1757, his tax was the highest of any in 
the town. 

Captain Edioard Hull, son of Capt. Robert, in 1766, 
with Ray Sands, Esq., represented the Island in the As- 
sembly. Just previous to the Revolution he moved to 

HULL. 331 

Jamestown, R. I., but still retained his farms on Block 
Island; in 1776 was representative from Jamestown in 
the Assembly; in 1779 and in 1781, obtained permits 
from the Assembly to visit his estate on the Island, and 
after the Revolution returned to Block Island, and was 
its representative in 1786. The farm near Sandy Point, 
now owned by Hon. J. G. Sheffield, and a tract including 
the residence and farm of Mr. Almanzo Littlefield, were 
formerly owned by Capt. Edward Hull, still remembered 
as a man of influence on the Island. 

By the kindness of Mr. Rohert B. Hull, of New York 
city, we are enabled here to present a genealogical line of 
Hulls connected with many respectable families now living 
on Block Island a line kindred, and parallel to that in 
which the distinguished General Hull and Commodore 
Hull are found, in reference to whom the ancient and 
less elegant than spirited stanza was sung as follows, tune 
Yankee Doodle : 

" Yankee Doodle, fire away, 
With cannon loud as thunder ! 
The brave Decatur, Hulls, and Jones, 
Make Johnny BuU knock under." 

Rev. Joseph Hull, with his wife Agnes, was minister of 
York, Me., and lived between the years 1594 and 1665. 

Capt. Tristram Hull, his son, with his wife Blanche, 
lived in Barnstable, Mass., between the years 1623 and 

Captain John Hull, his son, married Alice Tiddeman, 
daughter of Capt. Edward Tiddeman, of London. This 
Capt. Hull was the instructor in naval tactics of Sir 
Charles Wager, first Lord of the Admiralty, in 1733. — 
See Sheffield's Hist. Ad., Newport, 1876. John Hull 
was of Conanicut, and Newport, 1654-1732. His son, 

Capt. Tiddeman Hull, of Conanicut, R. L, married 
Sarah Sands, the only child of Edward Sands, a son of 


James Sands, one of the original proprietors of Block 
Island. The marriage occurred March 10, 1711. His 

Hon. Robert Hull, of South Kingston, R. I., 1718-1768, 
married Thankful Ball, daughter of Peter Ball, of Block 
Island, and here became a prominent citizen, as above 
stated. His son, 

Hon. Edtuard Hull, claimed as a Block Islander, mar- 
ried Mary, the daughter of Daniel Weeden, of James- 
town, R. I., and by marriage his descendants are numer- 
ous on the Island, though none of them bear the name of 
Hull. He was born at South Kingston in 1741, and died 
on Block Island in 1804. His children were: 

Alice; born Oct. 28, 1764, and married John Grorton, 
of Block Island: 

Weeden; born March 7, 1766, died unmarried: 

Thankful; born Apr. 27, 1767; married Nathaniel 
Champlain, of Block Island: 

Mary ; born March 21, 1770, died in infancy: 

Catharine; born Apr. 21, 1771: 

Robert; born March 25, 1773, and married Hannah 
Littlefield, of Block Island: 

Tiddeman, married, 1st, Lucy Hazard, and 2d, Sarah, 
daughter of John Andrews: 

John ; died unmarried : 

Joanna ; married Dr. Aaron C. Willey, of Block Island, 
the father of Mrs. Cordelia Dodge, the wife of the late 
Gideon Dodge, whose descendants here are numerous: 

Sarah; born May 5, 1780, married Wager Weeden: 

Jane ; married Dr. George Hazard, of South Kingston: 

Mary ; died unmarried. 

The children of the above Robert and Hannah (Little- 
field) Hull were: 

Edward; died unmarried: 


Alice; married Sylvester Hazard of South Kingston^ 
R. I.: 

Wager; married at "Babcock," of South Kingston: 

William; died unmarried: 

John; married , and had one child, — whole family- 
drowned in a freshet: 

Sarah; married Nathaniel Chappel, of Wakefield, R. I.: 

Joseph; died unmarried. 

Mr. Charles E. Perry, of Block Island, has carefully 
prepared genealogical branches of the Hulls, as connected 
with other names by marriage, as in case of those daugh 
ters who married Judge Wager Weeden, of South Kings- 
ton; Nathaniel Champlin. Esq., of Block Island; John 
Gorton, Esq., and Nathaniel Sheffield, Esq., both the 
latter of Block Island. 


The famihes of this name have been very numerous on 
Block Island for many years, and have maintained a very 
respectable position in society. 

Calel Littlefield was admitted freeman in 1721, and 
Nathaniel Littlefield in 1721, and from the two the vari- 
ous branches now here may have originated. The latter 
was representative in the Rhode Island General Assembly 
in 1738, 1740, 1746, 1748, 1754. 

Calel Littlefield, Jr., was admitted freeman in 1756, 
Nathaniel Littlefield^ Jr., also in 1756, both on the same 
day, as were their fathers. The latter was representative 
from Block Island in 1758, 1762. Caleb Littlefield, Jr., 
was one of the committee of the Island to oppose the 
English tea-tax, in 1774. 

John Littlefield was admitted freeman in 1738, was rep- 
resentative in the Assembly from 1747 up to the Revolu- 
tion, nearly thirty years, and in 1780 received from Gov. 
Greene a present of six barrels of cider. 


Samuel Littlefield was admitted freeman in 1736, Henry, 
Nathaniel, and Simon Ray Littlefield were on the Island in 
the early, and the last in the latter part of the Revolution. 

William Littlefield obtained distinction by marrying 
the daughter of Simon Ray, Jr., Miss Phebe Ray, by his 
own daughter, Miss Catharine Littlefield, who married 
Maj.-Gen. Nathaniel Greene, by which marriage she be- 
came an intimate associate with the wife of General 

Said William Littlefield took an active part in the Rev- 
olution, and in 1775 was appointed Ensign, and from that 
was promoted to the office of Lieut. -Captain. After 
about five years of faithful service in the American 
army, while on a visit to Block Island he was reported, 
maliciously, to the General Assembly as having assisted 
the Islanders in carrying on trade with the English, for 
which crime his name was greatly dishonored until he 
could get a hearing before the Assembly. He was cen- 
sured, and denied his pay in 1781, but in 1784 obtained a 
hearing whereby the falsity of the accusation against him 
was admitted by the Assembly, and his pay with interest 
granted. In 1785, he took his seat again as a representa- 
tive of Block Island in the General Assembly, and also 
in 1792. 

Henry Littlefield, familiarly called ^^Harry,''^ or "old 
Harry," during and after the Revolution owned a large 
tract on the Island. He kept the only store, at the Har- 
bor, and according to tradition, kept himself on friendly 
terms with the ''refugees," by selling them liquor. He 
does not seem to have been a relative of the other Island 
Littlefields. It is said that in addition to his large real 
estate, *' he had a barrel of dollars." In the height of his 
wealth, the tide of fortune set against him. He had un- 
justly taken the property of a woman whose daughter is 
an aged lady now living. He had taken eight of her 


feather beds, and she said to him, ^'My prayer is, that 
you may die so poor that you will not have a bed to die 
on ! " Her prayer was answered. 

Elias Littlefield^ though a man in humble life, a resident 
for many years on the north end of the Island, was one 
of Nature's great men, and what was better, he was a 
most exemplary Christian, sound and clear in doctrine, 
familiar with the Bible, and always ready to converse 
upon religious topics. As we stood, one sunny day in 
spring, on the south side of his barn, when the winds 
were chilly, under the old man's farming garments, from 
within the old tenement of clay, shone out the bright rays 
of the beautiful garments of the ''new man," that spoke 
heavenly words of his eternal youth, and of his happy 
home in prospect. He went there in 1875, at the age of 

Anthony Littlefield, the brother of Elias, and Mercy, his 
wife, are now living, the former in his eighty-fourth year, 
and the latter in her eighty- fifth, both free from disease, 
although he has recently become blind. Their married 
life together, over sixty years, in comfortable circum- 
stances, has passed away happily. They, for many years, 
have risen early, breakfasted by lamp-light, dined about 
eleven, supped about four p. m., attended to their own 
domestic matters without a, servant or a third person in 
their house, with clear memories and reasoning faculties; 
as ready to die alone as in a crowd, and cheerful in the 
hope of a happy hereafter. They witnessed the fearful 
wreck of the Warrior, on Sandy Point, and received the 
corpses of the crew at their house for respectable prepar- 
ation for the Island cemetery. 

JElarn Littlefield, late of Block Island, for many years 
was an active business man, doing a large part of the mer- 
cantile trade here, and nearly all connected with the West 
Side, left many friends to commemorate his excellences, 


and sons to emulate his business example. His large 
store, near his house (upon which he had no insurance), 
was burned. His son, 

Lorenzo Littlefield, a representative in the Assembly in 
1861 and 1862, commissioner of wrecks, and town treas- 
urer, carries on an extensive mercantile business at the 

Hon. Ray S. Littlefield^ brother of Lorenzo, and inter- 
ested with him in the store, and proprietor of the popular 
Central House, has been representative in the Assembly 
since 1873 to the present, 1877. 

Thomas D. Littlefield W2i^ born in 1754, and died Au- 
gust 30, 1829, aged seventy-five years. He was father 

Nicholas Littlefield, who was born April 8, 1783, died 
June 2, 1846, aged sixty-five years. His sons Ulam, 
above-mentioned, Nicholas, and Ahnanzo Littlefield, the 
latter two now living, have been well-known and highly- 
esteemed citizens of the Island. 


This name is of comparatively recent origin on the Island. 
Mr. Jesse Lewis^ son of Enoch Lewis, a revolutionary 
soldier of South Kingston, R. I., settled upon Block 
Island in 1806, renting a farm here of Rowland Hazard — 
a farm of 300 acres, for seven years. In 1810, he married 
Susan A. Paine, daughter of Mr. Wm. Paine, and until 
his death remained a worthy citizen and first-class farmer 
over fifty years. His son, 

Hon. Wm. P. Lewis, born upon the Island April 22, 
1822, in 1849 married Miss Wealthy Dodge, daughter of 
Capt. Gideon Dodge, and granddaughter of Dr. Aaron C. 
Willey, who was then the physician of the Island, and 
well known abroad. In 1850, Mr. Lewis was elected 
third warden; in 1851, deputy sheriff; in 1853, second 


warden; in 1856, first warden, which office he now holds; 
is licensed auctioneer, notary public, and commissioner of 
wrecks. During his official services as warden (the same 
as those of a justice of the peace), he has rendered judg- 
ment in one hundred cases, eighty of which were civil, 
and twenty criminal. His first-class farm, and respect- 
able family, are an ornament and an honor to the Island. 


This has long been one of the familiar names on Block 
Island. The more prominent among them have been the 

James Mitchell, admitted freeman in 1683. Lieut. 
Thomas Mitchell, a cotemporary of the Rev. Samuel Niles, 
and with him a sufferer from the French privateers in 
1689. He was admitted freema.n in 1696, was representa- 
tive of the Island, with Simon Ray, in 1721, and held 
that office in 1723, 1724, 1735, in which year he was known 
as Captain Mitchell. 

Thomas Mitchell, Jr., was representative of the Island 
in the General Assembly in the year 1738. George Mitchell 
was admitted freeman in 1720; Jonathan Mitchell, in 1728; 
John Mitchell, in 1734; Joseph Mitchell, in 1721; John 
Mitchell, Thomas Mitchell, Jeremiah, Jonathan, and Joseph, 
in 1775, were on the Island and gave up their cattle to be 
taken beyond the reach of the British. In 1781 Thomas 
was a "fifer" in the Revolution. Of the generation 
between the last of the above and the oldest now living 
we have but httle knowledge. 

Barzelia B. Mitchell, father of the proprietor of the 
Spring House, is one of the oldest of the name on the 
Island. His father, Jonathan Mitchell, moved to the West 
long ago. 




Nathaniel Mott was one of the early residents of Block 
Island. As such he was admitted freeman in 1683. In 
1695, he was town clerk, held his office many years there- 
after, and was representative in 1710. 

Edioard Mott W2iS SidiiQiiiQd. freeman in 1696; 2bndi John 
Mott, in 1721; Edward, in 1738; Nathaniel, in 1744; John, 
in 1760, and in 1775, with Daniel Mott, was on the Island, 
and parted with cattle taken by the colony. Daniel Mott, 
father of Abraham R., now living, is still remembered as 
a worthy citizen. A. Rathhone Mott, an aged citizen, and 
a relative of the ancient Rathbone family, will long be 
remembered as a golden Hnk between the past and pres- 
ent. He is highly esteemed for his social and Christian 

Of the Motts now living on the Island who ah'eady 
have, or soon will pass the meridian of life, Edward, 
Hamilton, Francis, Smith, and Otis, may all be mentioned 
as having made a good record in public estimation. 

Although Mr. Oldham was neither a native nor resident 
of Block Island, yet his death here, and his being the 
first civilized trader here, entitle him to more than a pass- 
ing notice. He came from England and arrived at Ply- 
mouth in the ship Ann, July, 1623, and at once took a 
high position as a citizen. To him was allotted more 
land than to any other, and that was granted to him "in 
continuance," a thing done then to none other. He was 
soon invited to a seat in Gov. Bradford's council. His 
promotion was less rapid, however, than his fall. In 
1624, he was banished from Plymouth and forbidden to 
return, and by setting aside this banishment, in 1825, was 
expelled again "with great indignity," his offense being 
a strong attachment to Episcopacy. He settled at Nan- 


tasket in 1624; in 1626 was wrecked on Cape Cod and 
narrowly escaped, at about which time his character was 
greatly changed from its imperious tone to one of gentle- 
ness, and he was soon restored at Plymouth. Gov. Brad- 
ford entrusted to him a prisoner to be taken to England 
for trial, in 1628. In 1629 he had a claim on a large 
tract of land on the central part of which Charlestown, 
Mass., is now standing, and about that time became a res- 
ident of Watertown, Mass. That claim was contested. 
He was described as a " frank, high-minded man," and 
was admitted freeman of Watertown in 1631, where the 
highest trusts were conferred upon him. Mr. Oldham 
was one of the representatives in the first court that as- 
sembled in Massachusetts, and was chairman of the first 
legislative committee appointed in that State. In 1633 
he went by land to Connecticut, lodging among the In- 
dians, and probably founded the plantation at Wethers- 
field in 1634. His estate was the first ever settled there, 
Sept. 1, 1636. His death at Block Island had occurred 
in July, 1636, and but for that casualty the Island might 
have attracted httle or no attention during the succeeding 
century. He was a man of so great enterprise and 
promise to the colony of Massachusetts that she could 
not quietly suffer the death of so distinguished a citizen 
to go unavenged, and hence her conquest of Block Island. 
In Winthrop's History of New England we find the 
following circumstances of the death of Mr. Oldham, 
who had been out on a long trading voyage with the 
Indians, accompanied by two English boys, and two native 
men. All the sachems of the Narragansetts were in the 
plot to kill him, except Canonicus, and Miantonomoh. 
They sought his life because of his trade and peaceful 
acts with their enemies, the Pequots. Meantime Roger 
Williams was with Miantonomoh, who, through Mr. Wil- 
liams, expressed great sorrow over said death, and a pur- 


pose to punish the offenders. Master John Gallop, with 
a twenty-ton bark, passing Block Island, discovered Mr. 
Oldham's vessel, with its deck full of Indians, and a 
canoe passing from it to the Island full of Indians and 
goods. "Whereupon they suspected they [the Indians] 
had killed John Oldham, and the rather because the In- 
dians let slip and set up sail, being two miles from shore, 
and the wind and tide being off the shore of the Island, 
whereby they drove towards the main at Narragansett. 
Gallop and his men headed them, and bore up to them 
who stood " armed with guns, pikes, and swords." Gallop 
had only one man, two little boys, "two pieces, and two 
pistols." But he "let fly among them and so galled them 
that they all got under hatches." He then retired, got 
headway, and attempted to run them down, "and almost 
overset her, which so frightened the Indians that six of 
them leaped overboard and were drowned." He repeated 
the attempt, fastened to her, raked her fore and aft; stood 
off again, while "four or five more Indians leaped into 
the sea and were likewise drowned; " boarded her again, 
bound two Indians, threw one of them into the sea, dis- 
covered two moi'e Indians, inaccessible, "in a little room 
underneath, with their swords," and then "looking about, 
they found John Oldham under an old seine, stark naked, 
his head cleft to the brains, and his hands and legs cut as 
if they had been cutting them off, and yet warm. So 
they put him into the sea." Gallop towed Oldham's ves- 
sel away, "but night coming on, and the wind rising, 
they were forced to turn her off, and the wind carried 
her to the Narragansett shore." The two Indians that 
were with Mr. Oldham reported similar things to Mr. 
Williams then with the chief sachem Canonicus. The 
two boys that were with Mr. Oldham were returned by 
the sachem Miantonomoh, with a letter from Roger Wil- 
liams informing Governor Yane that said sachem had sent 

PAINE. , 341 

the sachem of Niantic to Block Island to procure said 
boys. Three of the Indians drowned while Gallop was 
capturing the Oldham vessel were sachems, and probably 
belonged to Block Island, as Roger Williams then wrote 
that there were "pettie sachems about the Great Pond." 
Another account of this affair is given in the article on 


In the oldest records of Block Island we find this 
name, although not directly connected with its settlement. 

Captain Thomas Paine has the honor of having com- 
manded the expedition against the French privateers in 
1690, and of having fought the first naval battle within 
the waters of Block Island after its settlement.- Captain 
Gallop, in 1636, had fought with the Indians, off Sandy 
Point, and captured from them the vessel which they 
had taken from the trader, Oldham. Capt. Paine's vic- 
tory is related in the article on Hostilities. When the 
French commander learned that he was fighting with his 
old acquaintance, he retreated, "stood off to sea," and 
remarked that "he would as soon choose to fight with the 
devil as with him." 

Thomas Paine, perhaps a son of the former, 1736, was 
admitted freeman of Block Island. 

John Paine, in 1745, was- here as a citizen, and rose to 
distinction in matters of trust, representing the Island in 
the General Assembly in 1753, 1757, 1761, 1765, and in 
1775 parted with a large stock of cattle to the govern- 
ment, and remained as one of the solid citizens of the 
Island during the Revolution. 

.Revoe Paine, son, or grandson of John, was born upon 
the Island, and here lived to a great age. He was prob- 
ably the son of John, as it is said he was born about one 
hundred years ago. 

John Revoe Paine, son of Revoe, is one of the present 


residents, and is a highly esteemed citizen, both for his 
integrity and for his respectable family. He is one of 
the most extensive land owners on the Island. 

Nathaniel Paine, commonly called "Uncle Nat," now a 
resident of Fairhaven, Mass., seems to belong to a dif- 
ferent branch from the above. He will long be remem- 
bered among the Islanders by his zeal for religion, and 
by his consistent deportment, and as the father of Mrs. 
John G. Sheffield. 


This has been a common name on Block Island from its 
first settlement, in 1662. 

Tormut Rose was one of the first who came to occupy 
the soil, and was admitted as a freeman in 1664. His 
direct descendants are still upon the Island. In 17*75, 
one of them bore the name of Tormut, which has contin- 
ued to be transmitted from generation to generation, and 
latterly has been written Thomas. 

Capt. William Rose came to the Island with the settling 
party, according to the town records, and his name has 
been several times repeated since then, as applied to 
later generations. He had command of the bark that 
brought the settlers, their cattle, and goods, in part, from 
Braintree and Taunton. 

JEzekiel, and Oliver Ring Rose, John, and John Rose, Jr., 
are waymarks of the Rose family here during the eigh- 
teenth century. 

Rev. Enoch Rose founded the Free-Will Baptist church 
of the Island about the year 1820. He was a man of 
more than ordinary natural abilities, and exerted much 
good influence upon others. Persons of this name are 
numerous on the West Side, and on all parts of the 
Island they contribute largely to the population of good 

Lieut. Gov. Anderson C. Rose, late of Block Island, 

ROSE. 343 

obtained distinction in the political arena. Born about 
the year 1826, the son of Capt. Thomas Rose, in early 
years exhibited a love of learning, diligently improving 
his opportunities in the common school, and during vaca- 
tions. While a boy he adopted for his daily motto 
^^ Strive to do Rights He became a teacher on his native 
Island, and as such is respectfully remembered by many. 
In 1853, he was elected as representative to the General 
Assembly without opposition and there distinguished him- 
self by his force of character and logical powers. In 
spite of strong opposition from old and influential legisla- 
tors he secured a vote for the charter of a bank on Block 
Island, but for some reason the bank was never estab- 
lished. In 1854, he was elected to the State Senate, and 
also as first warden of his town, and about this time 
began the study of law which he pursued successfully in 
the ofiBce of Hon. B. F. Thurston of Providence. As a 
senator his talents brought him prominently before the 
people, and secured his nomination for lieutenant-governor 
in 1855, and his election by a majority of 5,708 votes 
over two other candidates. He officiated acceptably as a 
presiding officer, and at the close of the term for which 
he was elected turned his attention vigorously to the 
legal profession, and soon after his admission to the bar 
in 1857, removed to Illinois and began practice. His 
slender constitution broke down, and in July, 1858, his 
remains were brought back to Block Island, and in 1869 
were disinterred and placed beside his mother and sister 
in Cypress Hill cemetery of Brookl3m, N. Y. 

Ambrose N. Rose, town clerk, Alanson Rose, proprie- 
tor of the Woonsocket House, Capt. John E. Rose, 
Capt. Addison Rose, and others are well-known as de- 
scendants from ancient ancestors on the Island. 



The first that we find of this name on Block Island was 
in 1758. SheSields were here previous to this date un- 
doubtedly. They were numerous in other places of Rhode 
Island, in its earliest history, and some of them occupied 
honorable positions, especially Joseph and Nathaniel from 
1696 to 1719. 

Edmund Sheffield, in 1758, was a farmer on the Island 
In June, 1757, a French privateer was hovering about the 
coast of Rhode Island, and the State " sent out two armed 
vessels in quest of her, one of which touched at Block 
Island, where she was supplied with four sheep and a 
cheese by Mr. Edmund Sheffield of that place." In 1762, 
he was one of the representatives of the Island in a peti- 
tion for a lottery in order to improve the Great Pond for 
a harbor and fisheries. 

Josiah Sheffield, in 1760, was admitted freeman of New 
Shoreham. At the breaking out of the Revolution there 
were several Sheffield families on the Island. Benjamin 
and Ezekiel were here then. The former left the Island 
during the war and lived at Charlestown, returning to his 
farm in New Shoreham to collect rents in February, 1779, 
and in October of the same year. 

Nathaniel Sheffield, son of Edmund, married Mary Ann 
Gorton, the daughter of John Gorton and Alice Hull, 
daughter of Capt. Edward Hull of Block Island. His 

Hon. John G. Sheffield, born upon Block Island, April 
26, 1819, still living, has been one of the most public- 
spirited and respectable citizens. Most of the time from 
the age of twenty -three, in 1842, when he entered the 
General Assembly, he has occupied positions of public 
trust and responsibility, and at the same time has been a 
first-class farmer. During the rebellion, and up to the 
year 1873, Mr. Sheffield represented the Island in the 


State Legislature, and cooperated with great vigor and 
personal influence with Hon. Nicholas Ball, his fellow- 
townsman, in securing a government harbor for the 
Island. Having held nearly all of the town offices, and 
with health somewhat impaired by a life of constant 
activity, for the past few years he has enjoyed the sweets 
of retirement at his beautiful home on one of the most 
sightly points of the Island — the ancient home of his 
grandfather John Gorton, who, on account of his personal 
bearing, was called "Governor Gorton," both by his 
townsmen and by the British soldiers of 1812, who as a 
mark of respect, when they visited his house, stacked 
their arms at a considerable distance from his residence. 

In the construction of the breakwater of Block Island, 
Mr. Sheffield did a good work for the public and for his 
townsmen. In July, 1872, seconded by several prominent 
townsmen, he became the contractor for placing in said 
breakwater 10,000 tons of riprap granite for the sum of 
$21,900.00. His closest competitor for the contract bid 
$29,500.00, from which it is seen that Mr. Sheffield saved 
an expense of $7,600 to the government and secured 
employment for many of his fellow citizens. His activity 
for the intellectual and moral improvement of the Island- 
ers has kept pace with his political and pecuniary enter- 
prises. The records of the First Baptist Church of New 
Shoreham indicate his activity in building the present 
house of worship and in other matters. 

The children of Mr. John G. and Mrs. Cordelia (Payne) 
Sheffield are Mary (wife of Capt. Archibald Milikin), 
Lucinda, John, EUa, Lila, Homer, and Arthur. 

Hon. William P. Sheffield, son of Mr. George G. Shef- 
field, and now a resident of Newport, is a native of Block 
Island and a cousin of John G. Sheffield. He has ob- 
tained distinction in the legal profession, in financial trans- 
actions, in political life, and in historical research. In the 



State Legislature he is at present an efficient representa- 
tive, and in 1861 was elected a member of Congress from 
the eastern district of Rhode Island. The historical 
sketches of Newport and of his native Island published 
by him in 1876 have given great pleasure to the public. 
From the latter we quote the following as an index of the 
feehngs and scenes common to the Islanders, and only 
wanting education or ambition to give them expression in 
poetry or in prose beautiful and sublime. He says : ^' The 
most attractive place to me are the high banks on the 
south side of the Island. Those rude, gray cliffs, which, 
since their creation, or possibly since the morning stars 
first sang together for joy, have presented their bared 
breasts in battle array to the sea and storm, always had a 
mysterious attraction to me. In my youth no neighbor- 
ing dwelling or other intrusion came to interrupt the con- 
verse of the surrounding scenes with the soul of the 
solitary visitor. There I saw in the swelling and reces- 
sion of the mighty bosom of the sea the respiration of 
God in nature; there in the calm and lull of the elements, 
I heard ' the still small voice ' fall upon my ears, wooing 
from above all that was good within me, and in the thun- 
der and earthquake shock of the storm, I have often stood 
almost paralyzed under the spell-binding influence of the 
warning voice thus coming from that Power which had 
aroused the wrath of the forces of nature, and was break- 
ing forth in the war of the elements. There I have seen 
the strong ship, which had traversed every zone, crushed 
by the power of the ocean waves as if her sides were 
but wisps of straw, and been impressed with the utter 
powerlessness of man to contend with Him who holds the 
sea in the hollow of His hand, and with His will directs 
the storm." 

Mr. George Sheffield^ hrother of Wm. P., is one of the 

TOSH. 347 

most thorough, and well-to-do farmers of the Island, and 
is a highly esteemed citizen. 


William Tosh was one of the settlers who embarked 
for Block Island, at Taunton, in 1662. He was not one 
of the first proprietors, but as a citizen was admitted 
freeman of the colony in 1664, was constable in 1676; 
died in 1685, and his property then inventoried shows 
that he was a well-to-do citizen, having 263 acrQg of land 
and dwelling-house, estimated at £288. 

Ackers Tosh, probably a son of "William, born in 1684, 
lived until he reached his one hundred and first year, ac- 
cording to the stone at his grave in the Island cemetery. 
He was admitted freeman in 1709. 

Margaret Tosh was born June 26, 1726. William Tosh 
was born in 1733. 

James Tosh was born May 26, 1735. (R. S. Dickens' 

Daniel Tosh, perhaps a brother of the first settler, Wil- 
liam, was admitted freeman in 1696, wdth several others 
of Block Island, and with James Sweet, who was then 
admitted, was kidnapped by a buccaneer in the bay, May 
18, 1717. The fate of both of them is still a mystery on 
the Island. 

The estate of the senior Wm. Tosh, inventoried in 
1685, furnishes us with the prices of things in general 
then on the Island. 

1 Chest and lock, .... 
1 Churn and firkins and glass bottles. 

. £0 


1 Cupboard and kneading trough, 

1 Chest, 



3 Bushels of salt, .... 
100 Pounds of cheese, .... 



1 Feather bed and bedding. 





1 Frying pan and dishes, . 

1 Pot and kettle, chain trammel, 

1 Hatchel, other lumber in the chamber, 

1 New pot and four wedges. 
Pails, hoes, and grinding stone, 

2 Pitchforks and 2 old hoes, 
1 Cart and wheels, 

3 Chains and 2 clevises, . 

3 Yokes, . 
Waring clothes, 

13 cows and a bull, 

4 Oxen, 

8 Calves, last year, 
6 Calves, . 

4 Two-year olds, vantage, . 
1 Heifer, 3 years old, 
1 Mare and a horse colt, . 

30 Swine, .... 

50 Sheep, .... 

263 Acres and dwelling-house 

1 Small gun, . . * . 

Old iron, cabbages, and wheels, barrels, 

1 Qr. pot, . 

8 Acres of corn, 

1 Indian servant for life. 

. £0 2 

1 15 






1 10 


1 6 

. 30 



2 8 

2 5 

2 5 

3 10 



. 288 


1 3 






John Wright was a resident of Block Island in the early 
part of the Revolution. In 1776 he and some of his 
neighbors had considerable trouble with the authorities at 
Newport on account of an alleged friendliness to the 

Wra. L. Wright^ a native of the Island, its first post- 
master, moved to Exeter, Otsego Co., N. Y., in 1837, 
taking children with him. His son, 

WRIGHT. 349 

George M. Wright, born in 1817, on Block Island, 
taught school here the winter that his friend S. Ray- 
Sands taught; attended select school in Hartwick, N. Y,, 
and afterward, in 1841, was employed in New York city 
by the firm of Jeremiah & Nathaniel Briggs, in the 
forwarding and transportation business. Subsequently 
he was superintendent of the Seaman's Friend and Re- 
treat, on Staten Island, and in 1851, became a citizen of 
New Brunswick, N. J., and was there general agent of Geo. 
W. Aspinw^all's steam towing line, in 1854. In 1855 Mr. 
Wright moved to Bordentown, N. J.; was there mayor 
three years; in 1865 was elected State Senator for three 
years; for many years was inspector and collector of the 
Delaware & Raritan Canal company — collecting millions 
and reporting every cent to the entire satisfaction of the 
company; for the last twenty years largely interested in 
steam boats, being a director in the Pennsylvania Steam 
Towing & Transportation company, and also engaged in 
banking. In February, 1876, he was elected State Treas- 
urer of New Jersey for three years, and it is hoped by 
his old friends on Block Island that he may live long and 
continue to be an honor to the home of his childhood. 

There are many names of excellent families on the 
Island not here represented. AU who have desired to 
have their genealogy briefly sketched have had an oppor- 
tunity to present the same to the writer. A whole volume, 
indeed, might be filled with biographical sketches of the 
Island families. Hereafter, it is hoped, there will be 
greater conveniences in ascertaining names, dates, and 
relations. The Milikins, the Conleys, the Peckhams, the 
Spragues, the WilHses, the Aliens, the Hayses, the Stead- 
mans, the Goes, the Dunns, and the Gortons, and others 
are old and respectable names worthy of commemoration. 



In almost every community there are persons so differ- 
ent from the generality of mankind, so nondescript, that 
without classifying them at all, each may be considered 
by himself as an abnormal specimen of humanity. Some 
can hardly be said to belong either to the sane, or to the 
insane; either to the civilized, or the uncivilized; either 
to the happy, or the miserable portions of society. Block 
Island has had its share of such. It has also had in- 
valids, worthy persons, singularly afflicted. 

" Varny " was an abnormal Islander. This part of his 
name is all we need to perpetuate. He seems to have 
been a pet of " Old Harry," as he was called. The latter 
was very rich, and delighted in lavishing his wealth on 
Varny. Old Harry's pet had his own way of enjoying 
presents of money, one of which was to use a dollar bill 
for lighting his pipe. At this Harry took no offense, for 
he was eccentric, and was proud of his ability to furnish 
such a spendthrift, and even went so far as to give Varny 
a deed of a good farm. In process of time, however, 
Harry offended his protege, and the latter, in a fit of re- 
venge burned up the deed of said farm. 

Varny's house was, for a time, one of those little stone 
and earth ice-houses at the Harbor, the wood-cuts of 
which may be seen in Harper's Monthly for July, 1876. 
His household companions were a dog, and a pig. For 
the latter he seemed to have the stronger attachment, 
and called him ''Rig-Dug." The pig reciprocated his 
master's attachment, and did not seem to be embarrassed 
with a sense of inferiority in the family. There existed 
between them a uniformity of aspirations and content- 
ment, except at certain times, when Rig-Dug would grunt 
good-naturedly at things which caused Varny to swear so 
frightfully as to make a swarm of boys run for their 
hiding places like rats when lightning gets into a cellar. 


Those boys, though now pretty ''old boys," still remem- 
ber the dark nights, when the rails went down Varny's 
chimney, when the beach-stones made music on his door 
— no glass to jingle, for he had no windows, — and when 
they scattered for their lives to escape from the wrath of 
the companion of Rig-Dug and Fido. 

Once Yarny got the best of the joke. Some men, see- 
ing the fun which the boys had by putting rails down 
said chimney, repeated the trick by putting a couple of 
small masts down the same. Soon after they were 
stepped in Varny's fire-place he kindled a brisk fire at 
their feet which necessitated a hasty exit. His eccentric 
mode of living was after he became a widower. Abnor- 
mal as he was, Varny is said to have had a son, whose 
name, by giving it a little touch of Latin, was 

Fracus. How he came to have this name, whether 
from some fracas, or something else, is unknown. He, 
too, was peculiar. His aberration from the laws of 
nature, living to old age in solitude; his exhibitions of 
rude paintings with which to interpret prophecies; and 
his making Gen. Washington a central figure of his inter- 
pretations; and his outdoor lectures to a passing throng; 
and his lonely waitings for some one to come to the place 
of his appointment, are evidences of his having better 
thoughts and feelings than did his father, and that, though 
he now sees with obscured vision, yet hereafter he may 
better understand the duties and joys of society and the 
glorious reahty of the shadows now lingering over his 
mental horizon. Time and eternity may prove that Fra- 
cus is less crazy to-day than some M^hose elegant mansions, 
in view of his lonely cottage, are distinguished by guests 
who seek only the pleasures of the present. Some who 
are little here will be great in the world to come, and 
some who are greatest here will be among the least there. 

Abnormity. The character to which this name is ap- 


propriate, on the Island, is as indescribable as the inside 
of a kaleidoscope. The rays in him are peculiarly mixed 
and angular. There is light in him, but of what kind, 
whether of nature or of revelation, or "darkness," it is 
not always easy to determine. But few exhibit a greater 
zeal for religion, and but few are believed by some to 
have less than he has. He imagines himself to be one of 
the humblest, while evincing great pride over his imagined 
superiority. He has claimed the supernatural gift of 
praying and exhorting in what he calls the "unknown 
tongue." He claims that he has healed the sick in twenty 
minutes by his prayers of faith. He is very boastful over 
his obedience to all the commandments, and has embraced 
many opportunities to class large congregations of Chris- 
tians with adulterers and thieves because they do not keep 
the seventh day holy as he does; and yet his behavior in 
seventh day meetings has been so bad as to break them 
up repeatedly. He repeats Scripture with great fluency, 
while the truths that pass from his tongue seem to have 
produced but a slight impression upon his mind. He goes 
from house to house to exhibit himself, and to talk about 
himself. Because David danced lefore the Lord, Abnor- 
mity glories in having a religious dance hefore men. His 
preaching gift is so great in his own estimation, that he 
begged the privilege of a dying neighbor to preach his 
funeral sermon on the ground that neither of the two 
pastors on the Island was competent for that service. He 
condemns persecution in strongest terms, and yet evidently 
seeks it. He is a great talker, and yet says but very little. 
He often talks about honesty, but has had the cheek to 
sell old hens for chickens, and when the trick was dis- 
covered, declared to the merchant that they loere chickens. 
He is as much of a compound of contradictions as the 
toper's beverage in which was, "Lemon to make it sour; 


sugar to make it sweet; brandy to make it strong; water 
to make it weak." 

Abnormity was once a little foiled. He contrived a 
plan for demonstrating his superiority over two ministers. 

His syllogism seemed to be this : ''I cured a disease, by 
prayer, in twenty minutes; if these two ministers cannot 
do as much, tlieii I am greater than hoth.^'' A lame arm 
and shoulder, real or feigned, were a test subject. He 
laid his disease before one minister for trial. Then he pre- 
sented himself before the other, saying: " We are com- 
manded, if any among you are sick, to call on the elders, 
it don't say call on the doctors, but on the elders, to be 
healed by the prayer of faith. I believe in going by the 
Scriptures, and have come to have you cure my arm and 
shoulder, and you can do it, if you are a true minister — 
for I have cured the sick by prayer in twenty minutes — 
and I have tried the other minister, and he has had twenty- 
four hours to heal it in, and I am no better, which shows 
that he is not a true minister — now I want to see what 
you can do." 

Minister No. 2, repKed: 'Are you willing to follow the 
Scriptures strictly, to be healed by the prayer of faith? " 
"Yes," he replied. "Then, if we go about this accord- 
ing to Scripture, we must follow the Scripture order. In 
the first place you must call on the ^^ elders.''^ not one at a 
time, as you have done with us. In the second place, you 
must have faith in our prayers to heal you, and in the 
third place we must ^^ anoint,'''' you either in part or all 
over, ^'"with oil,^'' and it will be a matter for us to consider 
whether or not to use herosene.^^ "Well, well," said he, 
" I don't know about having kerosene put on me," obtain- 
ing, perhaps, for the first time in his life, a glimpse of the 
necessary steps to be taken to be healed in the days of 
miracles. Before his visit closed, during which all was 
said in a serious manner, he gestured with his lame arm 


about as freely as he did with the other, and has not 
applied for healing since then. 

Some of his recitations of Scriptures, some of his pray- 
ers and exhortations, and some of his exhibitions of faith, 
whether moved by the spirit which actuated the effemi- 
nate demoniac that followed Paul and Silas at Philippi, or 
by a better spirit, have certainly been extraordinary. In 
the sieve which Satan shakes, in spite of him, the wheat 
will come to the surface, occasionally. Abnormity has 
made a zig-zag mark which it is feared he will never 
straighten. He has some worthy ancestors, and many 
good relatives now living, and is known somewhat abroad, 
but should not be considered as an average, but as a pecu- 
liar representative of Block Island. 


They were all thus afflicted in early childhood, and all 
grew up to be old men. The few ideas which they ob- 
tained from partial vision in their earliest years were of 
great value to them in youth and manhood. Two are 
dead, and one is living. They were all bright boys, and 
by their activity and kind dispositions have secured not 
only sympathy from the more highly favored, but a good 
degree of respect from them also. Though supported 
mainly by the town, they have exhibited a desire to help 
themselves as much as possible. They were very good 
fishermen, by having a little assistance. Their friends 
conversed with them rapidly by signs made by moving 
their hands, and by touching various parts of their per- 
sons. They, in turn, quickly recognized and distinguished 
indviduals by their height, breadth of shoulders, shape, 
beard, faces, depth of chest, quality of dress, and by 
whatever their hands might touch. They were able to 
go to various parts of the Island, and to return alone, 


feeling their way with canes. They were familiarly 
known as Blind Varnum, Blind Nelson, and Blind Henry, 

The last one named is now living. • 

Blind Varnum is remembered, among other things, by 
his adroitness in catching lobsters that were smaller than 
the legal standard. He contrived a plan by which he 
made the lobsters the aggresssors, and himself an actor 
in self-defense. His mode of procedure was simply to 
have the lobsters catch him. To do this, knowing well 
their powerful pincers. Blind Yarnum would muffle his 
feet with stockings and rags fastened around his toes, and 
then, in the warm days of summer, when the tide was 
low, waded out into the bay, near the old pier, as deep as 
it was safe for him to do, and there would work his feet 
around the rocks, and into the sand until he felt the 
lobsters pinching his toes. Thus the lobsters caught him, 
and he, in defense, mastered them, strung them, and sold 
or ate them. He was drowned, while fishing. 

Blind Nelson made a deep impression upon the Island- 
ers by his rehgious character. Though unable to hear or 
say a word, or see a thing, his religious convictions were 
clearly expressed, and his desire to be baptized and 
become a member of the church was gratified. His faith- 
ful attendance at times of worship, was unmistakable 
proof of his consciousness- of the fulfillment of the prom- 
ise of the Saviour to be w^here his followers are assem- 
bled in -his name. He also gave expression to his faith 
and emotions in the conference meetings in a manner 
which others could understand. By signs made with his 
hands, as he arose, the love of his heart was indicated, 
his hope of having his eyes opened, his ears unstopped, 
his tongue loosened, and of going to heaven were forci- 
bly expressed by silent gestures, while many a tearful eye 
looked upon his face tinged with the radiance of faith 


like that which shone out from the martyr Stephen. He 
died several years ago. 

Blind Henry is perhaps, a little more intelligent than 
was either of his brothers mentioned. During the win- 
ter he remains at home, but in summer the walk of two 
miles to the Harbor is frequently performed to get a few 
dimes from visitors, and to enjoy the many little favors 
conferred upon him by his well-known townsmen. No 
one seems to understand better than he the times and 
places for meeting the new arrivals by steamer. Many 
have seen him holding his hat by the way-side. His the- 
atrical performances, such as dancing, taking part upon 
the battlefield, sporting, killing his game, picking off its 
feathers, and eating it with a relish, using his cane for a 
gun, and his fingers for knife and fork — these with his 
jolly good nature while others are witnesses, and an occa- 
sional rap of his cane given to a perplexing boy, added 
to the narrow escapes from being run over by teams, keep 
his acquaintances mindful of his pitiful condition. 

It is interesting to notice the elements of human nature 
in some way exhibited by Blind Henry. His love of 
money is variously manifested. After a year's acquaint- 
ance with a minister who always gave him a few pennies 
when they met, Henry, showing him great respect by 
removing his hat and by slapping the minister on the 
shoulder, instantly anticipated the little alms, and on one 
occasion put out his hand too soon to receive the money, 
and instantly withdrew it as the thought occurred to him 
that he was hasty in begging from a minister. Here 
were evident a high respect, a strong love of money, and 
a quick and delicate sense of propriety, and a mortifica- 
tion for asking so hastily for alms, which he soon received. 
Henry likes a good bargain. When he buys pipes, to- 
bacco, and other items, good quality and full measure are 
demanded, and in order that he may not be cheated, he 


feels of the cheeks of the merchants before buying, by gently 
passing his hands over their faces. Some cheeks he will 
trust much more readily than he will others, and some he 
will not trust at all. 

Blind Henry gives very good evidence of having seen 
the Friend whom blind Bartimeus saw before his eyes 
were opened to the light of day. Two funerals had 
recently occurred on the Island, and Henry learned about 
them. Soon afterward he described them, and the char- 
acters of the deceased persons, and their destiny. The 
one was a devoted Christian. Without a word spoken, 
by the sign with his finger which indicated a curl of hair 
on the neck, those standing about him knew he meant a 
woman. With his thumbs and fore-fingers he gently 
pulled down his eyehds. He then laid his cane down 
upon the ground slowly, keeping it horizontal. Then he 
put one hand to one end of the cane and the other hand 
to the other end to represent head and foot stones. Then 
he stooped over the cane, and motioned with his two 
hands as if he were rounding up the earth over the grave. 
Then, after standing up a moment he stooped down, put 
his hands together over the imagined grave, separated 
them in a way that indicated the opening of the grave, 
repeated these motions several times, then rose up and 
stretched one hand high toward heaven. All understood 
him. He told us silently, " she is dead; " " she is buried;" 
"she will rise again; " "she has gone to heaven." The 
other funeral was similarly described, the description 
closing with motions indicating that the wicked man had 
gone down. 

Blind Henry keeps the Sabbath. If he loses the day 
of the week he inquires for the day of rest. To rebuke 
a wrong, he points up. 

The three deaf, mute, blind brothers were wholly mute 
and deaf from infancy, and all wholly blind after the 


age of twenty-five. Varnum was drowned at the age of 
about sixty, Nelson, at about sixty-five, died of consump- 
tion; and Henry is now living at the age of seventy. 


These are not numerous upon Block Island, for a living 
is here obtained with but little exertion. They are only 
eight, in 1877, and are not sent away from home to a 
county house, nor are they kept at one place. At an an- 
nual town meeting the keeping of each pauper for the 
ensuing year is given to the lowest bidder for the same. 
One by one they are thus put up at auction, and distrib- 
uted over the town. They are not, however, left to the 
mercy of the bidder. If an unworthy citizen underbids 
for one of the more respectable paupers, the bid is nulli- 
fied by the objections of the friends of said pauper. Thus 
instead of putting the poor into the care of strangers the 
Islanders keep them, at less expense, among their friends 
and kindred, and the town authorities see that they re- 
ceive proper attention. 

Suffering Katy. 

More than fifty years ago, in a comfortable cottage 
overlooking the Sound, and Montauk, from the west side 
of Block Island, a pious man looked upon the sun setting 
in the western waters, to see it rise no more. About two 
months after he went to hi^ rest his daughter Katy was 
born. While prattling upon her mother's knee, and frol- 
icking about the door-yard in childhood; while strolling 
over the fields and plucking wild flowers, and along the 
beach gathering shells and pretty pebbles in girlhood; 
and while enjoying the mirthful society of ''young men 
and maidens," it was well for Katy that she knew not 
how long and dark a cloud was to gather over her earthly 
horizon. No youthful female with a higher, broader 


brow; with more intellectual features, all most perfectly 
chiseled; with raven tresses, and black eyes more capti- 
vating than Katy, had walked upon the Island. But, on 
account of her accidental fall, suddenly the faces that 
were wont to meet her with smiles and gleeful words 
were changed, and brought her expressions of pity and 
words of sympathy. 

Katy received an injury at the age of twenty which 
laid her upon a bed of great suffering. Her strength was 
so much reduced as to deprive her of the privilege of 
walking for one long year. She had previously become 
a member of the Free- Will Baptist church of Block Isl- 
and, and bore her suffering with Christian submission. 
"Heaven hides the book of fate," and it was a blessing 
to her that she could not read in it her future. This first 
year of pain was only one of the ten in succession. These 
ten long years of painful days and "wearisome nights" 
were only the beginning of Katy's sorrows. One year 
was added to another, keeping her constantly upon her 
bed, until a score of them had passed by her cottage with- 
out bringing to it relief. The companions of her youth 
came to her bedside less frequently. Some were pressed 
with domestic cares, some had moved away, all had 
changed, and some were buried who had expected to 
follow Katy to her resting^ place. Twenty years in bed ! 
Had she said, when first prostrated, like Job, "When 
shall I arise and the night be gone ? " who could have 
supposed that the reply, "twenty long years," would have 
been only a partial answer to her inquiry ? Yes, ten more 
than twenty years of pain were in store for poor Katy. 
She has patiently worn them away. Thirty years of her 
life have been spent upon a bed of pain and sorrow. 

During this long period of suffering, Katy has man- 
aged much of her time to take care of herself almost 
entirely. No place among her kindred, however com- 


fortable, has been able to give her such contentment as 
the roof beneath which she was born, and the room in 
which she has suffered so much. There, by means of 
sticks with hooks and forks on the ends of them, like 
those used by merchants to reach things up high, she has 
helped herself. There, with shelves on the wall back of 
her bed, and on the walls at its head, she has reached 
things without troubling others. There, with a small 
cooking-stove near her bed, with her hooks and forks that 
have handles five or six feet long, after the fire has been 
kindled, she has done the little cooking required, with 
some feehngs of independence. There, with fuel prop- 
erly placed, she has replenished her own fire without call- 
ing upon others. It would astonish many to know how 
much she has done to help herself during these thirty 
invalid years. In so doing, her will and ingenuity have 
been developed, as may be seen in her conversation. In 
the meantime her religious sensibilities have been chas- 
tened and refined as gold in the furnace. Reading the 
Bible has occupied much of her time when health would 
permit. Committing poetry to memory, and often repeat- 
ing it, has also been a source of comfort. As she has 
considered herself, for more than twenty years, so near to 
death's door, the following stanzas have been repeated by 
her many times, as appropriate for others to remember: 

" These eyes that she seldom could close, 
By sorrow forbidden to sleep, 
Sealed up in the sweetest repose, 
Have strangely forgotten to weep. 

" Her months of affliction are o'er, 
Her days and her nights of distress, 
We see her in anguish no more. 
She has gained her happy release. 

" Then let us forbear to complain. 
Since she is removed from our sight ; 
We soon shall behold her again. 
With new and increasing delight." 


After thirty years of pain and privation — of youthful 
hopes blasted, of social privileges denied, much of the 
time alone, dependent upon the kindness of a few kindred 
and neighbors, waiting from year to year for death to 
release her from sorrow, it would be better than an elo- 
quent sermon on the text: '•' Godliness with contentment 
is great gain," for some who murmur at their lot to look 
into Katy's humble abode and hear her sweetly say, as 
she has said: " During all my sufferings 1 have thanked God 
for my many hlessingsy 

Thirty years — fifteen hundred and sixty weeks, ten 
thousand nine hundred and fifty days on a bed of suffer- 
ing, thanking God for many Messing s ! Well, Katy has 
had many blessings, in comparison with one who for 
many more years begged for a drop of water. She has 
had blessings unseen by mortal vision, as well as many 
from the hands of friends and kindred, and while she 
still lingers she is blessed with a freedom from thousands 
of vexations common to those basking in the pride and 
sunshine of society. She has beautifully exemplified 
Shakespeare's saying: 

" There is some soul of goodness in things evil, 
"Wonld men observingly distil it out." 

Since the above was written, she died March 2, 1877, 
and was buried in the Island cemetery. This sketch was 
read, and her favorite verses sung at her fuijeral. 




Act, to protect timber, ----- 26 

Arrests, ------- 101 

Ann Hope, vessel, ----- 136 

Act, for arming citizens, in 1676, - - - 74 

Appeal, pitiful, ------ 84 

Account of cattle and sheep, - - - - 92 

Audsah, an Indian murderer, - - - -13, 57 

Arrows, and axes, - - _ . . 58 

Anthony, schooner, . . - - - 45 

Appropriations for Harbor, - - - - 153 

Arnold, trader, death of, - - - - 62 

Articles of Faith, - - - - - 253 

Abnormity, sketch, - - - - - 351 

Battle of Fort Island, - - - - - 69 

Boats, of the Island, ----- 44 

Block Island, neutral in 1812, - - - - 106 

Big George, an Indian, ----- 60 

Burial, Indian, ------ 67 

Ball, Hon. Nicholas, ----- 149 

Block, Adrian, ------ 9 

Beach, bathing, - - - - - - 169 

Bluffs, ---.-.. 166, 171 

Bounties on crows, - ^ - - - - 178 

Battle, naval, ------ 78 

Breach, the, ------ 150 

Beacon Hill, ------ 166 

Bathing Beach, ----- - 167 

Black Sand, ------ 168 

Boat Building, ------ 192 

Blacksmiths, - - - - - - 193 

Briggs, ------- 193 

Boot and Shoe making, - - - - 194 

Buildings, Public. - - - - - 204 

Bray, Rev. C, - - - - - - 257 

Baker, Rev. J. H., - - - - - 258 

Baptisms, -__--. 261 

Baptists, Seventh-Day, ----- 265 

364 INDEX. 


Cattle and Sheep removed, - - - - 91 

Commission, Endicott's, - - - - 72 

Cutting timber, ------ 26 

Cod-fish — Block Island, - - - - 41 

Church Family, ------ 64 

Coal introduced, - - - : - 29 

Coal, valueless, ------ 25 

Cider, six barrels, - - - - - 102 

Cattle, removed from the Neck, - - - 172 

Clay Head, 174 

Coral, ------- 174 

Center, the, ------ 175 

Cemetery, the, ------ 176 

Crows and blackbirds, ----- 178 

Chagum Pond, ------ 160 

Cooneymus, - - - - - - 165 

Christmas Tree, first, - - - - - 181 

Carriage^, the, - - - - - - 184 

Census for 1875, ----- 191 

Carpenters and Joiners, - - - - 193 

Civil Polity, ------ 232 

In Revolutionary Period, - - - 237 

Churches of the Island, - - - - 244 

First Organization, - - - - 250 

Church Articles of Faith, - - - - 252 

Free- Will Baptist, - - - - 263 

Dividing and dressing fish, - - - - 37 

Dog-fishing, ------ 38 

Disappearing of Indians, - - - - 63 

Drying fish, - - - - - - 41 

Dogs, Indian, - - - . . - - 58 

Duties on tea, ------ 88 

Dixon, Nathan H., schooner, - - - - 45 

Discovery of Block Island, - - - - 9 

Division of the Island among sixteen, - - - 18 

Dorry's Cove, ------ 164 

Dress-making, - - - - - - 194 

Democracy, a Miniature, - - - - 232 

Dill, Rev. J. S., - 255 

Deaf, mute, and blind brothers, - - - 354 

Echo in the woods, ----- 25 

Enslaved, the Indians, - - - ... - 60 

English Soldiers in 1812, - - - - 106 

Eggs, - - - - - - - 179 

East Side, ------ 167 

Excursion, first, - - - - - - 219 

INDEX. 365 


French privateers, ----- 76 

Fisheries, ------ 33 

Fish, first sold to English in 1812, - - - 110 

Fine for landing persons, - - - - 84 

Fishing in summer, ----- 39 

Fishing, jjound, - ----- 39 

Fish wells, ------ 36 

Fish paths, or " banks,'' - - - - 36 

Fishing boats, going out, - - - - 37 

Fishing seasons, ----- 35 

Fishing, mode of, ----- 36 

Fisheries in 1675, and 1702, - - - - 33 

Fish stealing, by "Wrathv, - - - - 33 

Fuel, -.:-.-. 25 

Fisheries, value of, _ _ - _ _ 41 

Fort Island, - ----- 75 

Filtered Sea-water, ----- 153, 304 

Fresh Pond, - ----- 161 

Fort Island Pond, ----- 162 

Fog-Signal, ------ 207 

Fracus, sketch, - - - - - -351 

Guns, the great, ----- 87 

Great Pond, ------ 140, 157 

Gun, up chimney, - - - - - 106 

Government Harbor, ----- 143 

Great Pond surveyed, - - - - - 150 

Gibbs, the pirate, ----- 64 

Gear, Wrecking, - - - - - 136 

Gorton, " Governor,"' - - - - - 174 

Girard, Stephen's vessel robbed, - - - 65 

Grace's Cove, - - - - - - 164 

Geese, Wild. - - . - - - - 176 

Gladwin, Rev. Albert, ----- 257 

Harbor, from 1660 to 1877,. - - - - 140 

Hot Houses, Indian, ----- 59 

Harbor, ------- 169 

Harbor Bovs, - - - - - -105 

High Hook, - - - - - - 36 

Hostilities, Indian, ----- 69 

French, ----- 76 

Revolutionary, - - - - 88 

of 1812, - - - - - 106 

Harry, an Indian, ^ - - - - 60 

Helmets, . . - . - - 52 

Heroism, ------ 75 


366 INDEX. 


Harbor Hill, - 87 

Honesty and Economy, ----- 154 

High-way, in 1707, - - - - - 173 

Hummuck, the - - - - - - 175 

Hidden Treasure, - - - - - 180 

Harbor Pond, ----.- 162 

Houses, ------- 181 

Horseback Riding, - - - - - 187 

Hotels, 210 

Hall, Rev. Silas, . . - - . 256 

Harvey, Rev. J., - - - - - 264 

Henry, blind, - - - - - - 356 

Indians, Manisseans, ----- 48 

Kill Mr. Oldham, - - - . 51 

Ninicraft, Chief, - - - - 48 

Sassacus, " a god,'' - - - - 49 

In 1524, - - - - - 49 

Vincent's description of, - - - 50 

Subjugation of, - - - - 52 

Their wigwams and mats, - - - 55 

Wars of, among themselves, - - - 56 

Trugo sold for rum, - - - - 60 

Sheep Thieves, . . - - 60 

Shut up at night, - - - - 61 

Protected, ----- 61 

Their religion, _ _ _ - 66 

Selling liquor to, - - - - 74 

Hostilities with, - - - - 70 

Indian Head Neck. ----- 68 

Inhabitants Exiled, ----- 96 

Illicit Commerce, ----- 99 

Invasion, First, ------ 76 

Second, ----- 80 

Third, ------ 81 

Fourth, ----- 83 

Incidents, of the war of 1812, - - - - 108 

of making the Harbor, - - - 154 

Insult to Dr. Rodman's wife, - - - - 78 

Improvements, Rapid, - - - - - 213 

Inhabitants, ------ 267 

Joyful termination of war, - - - - 101 

Jug, Mr. Sprague's, - - - - - 110 

Jasper, the wreck, - - - - - 129 

Jeffrey, an Indian thief, _ - - - 60 

Jack, from the Palatine, - - - - 169 



Kidnapped by pirates, - 
Kattern, Dutch, 

a witch, 
Katy, Sufiering, - * 

Ligniiin Yitse, from the Palatine, 
Laura E. Messer, wreck, 
Lottery for Harbor, 
Legend of the Palatine, 
Letter, Whittier's, 

Dr. Willey's, - 
Location of the Island, - 
Light-House, new, 
Lambs, many, - - - 

Lawyers, _ _ _ 

Light-Houses, - - - 

Life-Saving Stations, 
Schools, - - - - 

Library, Island, - 
Lewis, Rev. C. C, 
Littlefield, Rev. E. R., - 

Mails, - - - - 

Carried for four cents. 
Arrival of, 
Memoranda of Palatine, ]\Ir. Perry's, 
Misrepresentation of the Islanders, 
Mars, the wreck, 
Moluncus, the wreck, 
Mary Augusta, the wreck, 
Mays, the wreck, 
Martha and Hannah, the wreck, 
Merritt, Capt., - - - 

Manisseans, - - - 

Miantinomo. - - - 

Mohegans, and Mohegan Bluflfs, 
Mohegans captured on the Island, 
Middle Pond, - - - 

Mill Pond, - 

Masonic Lodge, - 

Masonry, . . _ 

Mills, - - . - 

Mortars, the Dancing, - 
Meeting-houses, - - ' - 

Music, - - - - 

Minister's Lot, or Land, 




























196, 197 




368 INDEX. 


Minister, first called, ----- 245 

Second called, ----- 248 

Macomber, Rev. Elijah, r - - - 355 

Maryott, Rev. LB.,- - - - - 258 

Mitchell, , - - - - - 337 

Mott, , ------ 338 

Naval Engagement, off Sandy Hill, - - - 78 

Numbering the people, in 1776, - - -' 94 

Mnicraft, Chief, - - - - - 68, 48 

Niles, Samuel, ------ 50 

Names of the Island, - - - - - 11 

Narragansett Indians, - - - 13, 49, 68 

Ninicraft, Chief, his reply to Thomas Terry, - - 298 

Niles, Rev. Samuel, and descendants, - - - 310 

Nelson, blind, - - - - - - 355 

Oil sold for ammunition, in 1702, - - - 34 

Oldham, killed, ------ 48 

Old Ned's sons, 60 

Ox team, going to the beach, - - - - 169 

Old Harbor Landing, - - - - - 170 

Oysters, in the Great Pond, - - - - 159 

One-ox Cart, - - - - - - 185 

Odd Fellows, 189 

Officers, for 1876-7, 189 

Officers, Town, in 1676, - - - - 234 

in 1700, ----- 235 

Oldham, John, sketch of, - - - - 338 

Palatine, Legend of, - - - - - 112 

Wrecked in the Bay of Bengal, - - 118 

Whittier's Poem, - - - - 114 

Mr. Perry's memoranda of, - - - 116 

Mr. Sprague's statements about, - - 119 

Light, - - - - - - 122 

Light described by Dr. Willey, - - 123 

Peat, first used, ------ 27 

quantity of, - - - - - 28 

Postmasters, ------ 46 

Palmetto, wreck, - - - - - 130 

Poem, Whittier's, - - - - - 114 

Pole Harbor, ------ 147 

Pier, Old, - - - • - - - 143 

Pier, New, ------ 144 

Ponds, ------- 156 

Permits, revolutionary, - - - - - 98 

INDEX. 369 


Pounds, lisliing, _ . . - - 40 

Pequots, - - - - - - - 49 

Paine, Capt.,* ------ 74 

Prisoners, the Islanders, - . - - - 97 

Piracy, ------- 115 

Possession of the Island, - - - - 13 

Pound, cattle, - - - - - - 1'''7 

Poultry, - - - - - - 179 

Palatine Graves, the, - ... - 165 

Population, from 1662 to 1875, - - - 188 

Physicians, - - - - - ' ^^^ 

Painting, - - - - - -195 

Polity, Civil, ------ 232 

Paine, ------- 341 

Paupers, .-_-.- 358 

Quota of Soldiers, - - - - - 86 

Rodman, Dr., - - - - - - 78 

Revolution, - - - - -. - 88 

Recollections, Mr. Sprague's, - - - - 119 

Refugees, - - - . - - - 103 

Rose, Capt. Addison, ----- 45 

Capt. John E., - - - - 45 

Roads, the, - - - - - - 185 

Russell, Rev. R., ----- 258 

Revival, .-.-.- 260 

Rose, Rev. Enoch, - - - - - 264 

Elijah, 264 ■ 

Ray, Simon. .-..-- 266 

Simon, Jr., 391, 293 

Catharine, wife of Gen. Greene, - - 294 

Catharine, admired by Dr. Franklin, - 295 

Rathbone, John, and descefidants, . - - 306 

Rose, sketch, ------ 342 

Scissors' Victory, - - - - -104 

Saved and lost vessels, - - - - - 134 

Sprague, Benjamin, ... - - 110, 113 

Sacking the Island, ----- 77 

Soldiers billeted out, ----- 87 

Schooner Pollv captured, _ - - - 95 

Salt vnthheld,' ------ 95 

Sea-moss, - - - - - - 42 

Sassacus, chief, ------ 49 

Sea-weed, - . - - - - 30 

quantity, ----- 32 

370 INDEX. 


Squadron of soldiers in 1675, - - - - 73 

Storm, sudden, at sea, ----- 38 

Election delayed by, - - - ' - 47 

Samson, an Indian, - . - - - - 60 

Solemn time, .--..- 94 

Shaving mills, boats, ----- 105 

Signals on Beacon Hill, . . . . 106 

Sands, Thomas Ray, ----- 108 

Settlement in 1662, ----- 14 

Surface and soil. ----- 21 

Sandy Point, - - - - - - 175 

Sheep, Marking, and fold, - - - - 179 

Sands' Pond, ------ 161 

Sandy Hill, 164 

Stores, the, .--.-- 183 

Stedman, Rev. Enoch, ----- 254 

Sailor phrases, ------ 262 

Sands, Capt. Jas. and his descendants, - - 268 

Mrs. Sarah, physician, - - - 280 

House and Garrison, their location, - - 284 

Sheffield, sketch, 344 

Suffering Katy, ------ 358 

Tea, duties on, - - - - - - 88 

Trimming, William, his perfidy, - - - 77 

death, ------ 78 

Trugo, an Indian, sold into slavery, - - - 60 

Topography, ------ 156 

Timber, preservation of, - - - - 26 

Transfers of the Island, - - - - 14 

Trees, ------- 226 

Terry, Thomas, and descendants, - - ' - 296 

disarms thirty Indians, _ . - 301 

Tosh, sketch, ------ 347 

Underhill, Capt., _ - . - . 52 

His armor, ----- 52 

Admiration of his wife, - - - 52 

His account of taking the Island, - - 53 

Voyage to the Island, in 1662, - - - - 19 

Verrazzano, ------ 49 

Vincent, -------60 

Vineyard, brig, sunk bv pirates, - - - 64 

Visitors, - - ' - - - - - 227 

Visit, Gen. Grant's, ----- 230 

Vamy, sketch, - - - - - - 350 

Varnum, blind, ------ 355 

INDEX. 371 


Whales, about the Island, - - - - 42 

Wigwams, ------ 55 

Wars, among the Indians, - - - - 56 

Against the Indians, - - - - 72, 75 

French, ----- 76 

Revolutionary, - - - - 88 

Of 1812, ----- 106 

Williams, Baulsgrave, kidnapper, - - - 85 

Wrecks, and Wrecking, - - - - 112 

Work begun on the Harbor, - - - 153 

Wife, counsel of, ----- 52 

Wansley, pirate,- ----- 64 

Williams, Roger, - - - - - 13 

Washington, General, ----- 95 

West Side, ------ 163 

Watch Repairing, - - - - - 194 

Wheeler, Rev. Geo., - - - . - - 264 

Women, the, ------ 267 

Wright, sketch, - - " - - - -348 


A history of Block Island 

3 ETE2 DDllD 52D 1 

^p Qoli